Managing Food Supplies: Sanitation & Cooking Without Power

Managing Food Supplies: Sanitation & Cooking Without Power

It doesn’t take a large-scale disaster to cause large portions of the population to be without power for days. In fact, last fall a surprise October snowstorm in Boston caused 43,000 homes to go dark – some for nearly a week.

Being without power for days probably means the loss of all food in cold storage. In the case of the Boston snowstorm, it may mean no access to a grocery store. Clean water may be also be limited. If you find yourself without power, here are some tips from FEMA for staying safe:


  • Store food in covered containers.
  • Keep cooking and eating utensils clean.
  • Keep garbage in closed containers and dispose outside, burying garbage if necessary.
  • Keep your hands clean by washing them frequently with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected.
  • Use only pre-prepared canned baby formula for infants.
  • Discard any food that has come into contact with contaminated floodwater.
  • Discard any food that has been at room temperature for two hours or more.
  • Discard any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture.


  • Eat foods from cans that are swollen, dented, or corroded, even though the product may look safe to eat.
  • Eat any food that looks or smells abnormal, even if the can looks normal.
  • Use powdered formulas with treated water.
  • Let garbage accumulate inside, both for fire and sanitation reasons.
  • Note: Thawed food usually can be eaten if it is still “refrigerator cold.” It can be re-frozen if it still contains ice crystals. To be safe, remember, “When in doubt, throw it out.”


  • Alternative cooking sources indoors in times of emergency include candle warmers, chafing dishes, fondue pots, or a fireplace.
  • Charcoal grills and camp stoves are for outdoor use only.
  • Commercially canned food may be eaten out of the can without warming. And Wise freeze-dried meals can be eaten without warming. Just add cold water and let the contents soak longer than normal.
  • To heat food in a can:

Remove the label.

  • Thoroughly wash and disinfect the can. (Use a diluted solution of one part bleach to ten parts water.)
  • Open the can before heating.
  • Or if you have Wise freeze-dried meals, simply open the pouch and add hot water.

Managing without Power:

  • Look for alternate storage space for your perishable food.
  • Eat food from your refrigerator first, then your freezer. Avoid unnecessarily opening refrigerators and freezers. Plan your access to these and try to remove everything you need for a meal in one trip.
  • Use dry ice if available. Twenty-five pounds of dry ice will keep a 10-cubic-foot freezer below freezing for 3-4 days. Use care when handling dry ice, and wear dry, heavy gloves to avoid injury.

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