Power outages are common during the hot, stormy Rhode Island summer months. We often forget just how reliant we are on electricity and some of your most susceptible assets are in your refrigerator or freezer.
The food you refrigerate and freeze could be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. You’re at risk of losing this food if there’s a prolonged power outage. Follow these tips and you’re more likely to protect yourself from loss before, during, and after a power outage.
Before The Storm
It makes sense to do what you can to protect your food before you find yourself in the middle of a power outage.
Get your food into the refrigerator or freezer quickly when you return from the supermarket. Vacuum pack freezer foods to remove air. This prevents freezer burn, which degrades the quality of your food. Alternatively, you can double wrap meats in meat paper, press out the air and seal the ends with freezer tape.
Set your refrigerator to 40 °F or below and the freezer at 0 °F or below. Freeze gallons of water and ice packs to keep the food in the freezer cold, even if the power goes out. You want to keep your freezer as full as possible, because it will keep food cold for about 48 hours. If it’s only half full, your food will only stay cold for about 24 hours.
Any food that you don’t need right away should go into the freezer immediately. This includes leftovers, fresh meat, milk and cheese. Your cheese will crumble, but it’s perfectly usable for pizzas, casseroles, and omelets.
You should have a few digital thermometers (to make sure that your food stays within a safe temperature range), drinking water and canned or dried goods in an emergency kit too.
During The Storm
If the power does go out, don’t open the refrigerator or freezer unless you absolutely must. Record the time the power went out.
If it looks like the power will be out for some time, pack dairy products, fresh meat and fish, eggs, and spoilable leftovers into a cooler with a thermometer and surround the food with ice.
If it looks like the power outage will go beyond a day, prepare another cooler with ice for the items in your freezer and add the other thermometer.
After The Storm
The old adage “it’s better to be safe than sorry” is very applicable when it comes to food safety. You cannot see or taste food-borne bacteria and their effects can be deadly. Bacteria multiply rapidly between 40 °F and 140 °F. You could suffer from botulism, Listeria, E. coli or other food-borne illnesses.
Fruits and vegetables, non-dairy condiments, and baked goods such as bread aren’t usually an issue, but meat, poultry, fish and leftovers can be dangerous.
Throw out refrigerated perishable foods stored above 40F for more than 2 hours. Also throw out any thawed frozen foods or freezer foods that reached 40F or above.
The rising cost of food means that losing what’s in your refrigerator and freezer can have quite the impact on your finances. Homeowners often assume that their insurance policy will cover food losses, but this isn’t necessarily true.
Your basic Rhode Island homeowner’s insurance policy probably doesn’t include food spoilage coverage, but it’s easy to add to your existing policy. You can buy optional coverage for this peril.
Discuss coverage with your agent to ensure you’re protected. A spoiled food rider provides you with affordable protection and peace of mind. No one wants to deal with the mess after an extended power outage, but these few preventative tips and proper coverage can reduce the likelihood of a major financial loss.