Whether you live in a hurricane-prone area, Tornado Alley or an area where you rarely see severe weather, a flood or power outage can happen at any time. And when a power outage or flood happens, you may be more worried about your possessions than your food supply or medications.
But should you throw your food out if your power goes out? And what happens if you find your medicine bottles floating in a puddle?
Here’s what you should do with food or medications after a flood or power outage.
What to do with medicine after a flood
Be careful about handling any food or medicine that’s come in contact with flood water because flood water isn’t the same as the water that comes from your faucet or that falls from the clouds — it can be contaminated with toxins or germs or bacteria that can make you sick.
If any food or medicine comes in contact with this water, throw it away. If, however, the medication bottle is wet but the pills inside are dry, you can use the pills until you can get new medicine. If you notice the pills have been discolored or have partially dissolved from water, throw them away.
What to do with food after a flood
Any food that has come in contact with flood water — even if it is packaged in plastic, cardboard or paper containers — should be thrown away. The exception is any food that’s been packaged in all-metal cans. Before using the food in cans, remove the labels and thoroughly wash the cans first. Then, disinfect the outside of the can with a solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 gallon of safe drinking water.
Also, throw away any food or beverage containers that have screw caps, twist caps or flip tops. If you’re in doubt about a food or drink, throw it out.
You’ll also want to disinfect any dishes or utensils that have come in contact with flood water. If you can’t disinfect these things — if they’re made of wood or plastic — throw them away.
What to do with medicine and food during or after a power outage
While a power outage won’t affect medication that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, medicine that needs refrigeration will last about 24 hours in an unopened fridge.
If you have refrigerated insulin and cannot get a new supply right away, you can use what you have, but it may not be as potent when it reaches room temperature.
For food, follow these rules:
- If the power has been out for less than four hours, food is safe to eat
- During the power outage, keep the refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible
- If you’re in doubt, throw it out
- Use a food thermometer if you’re not sure whether food is cold enough. Throw away anything that feels warm, has an unusual texture or odor or has been at a temperature higher than 40 degrees for two hours or more.
If severe weather is expected, get extra supplies of food and medicine and keep them in an area where they won’t be affected by a flood or a power outage. And if you’re unsure if anything is safe to consume after a flood or power outage, throw it away.