How Do I?                 Tompkins A-Z     

Safety of Food After Power Outage

For reporting an outage and guidance, call the Tompkins County Health Department at 274-6688  

  • If you think you might lose power, turn the freezer and refrigerator thermostats to the coldest settings. If you have already lost power, use these tips to keep food cold and safe to eat.
  • Keep the freezer closed; foods will usually stay frozen at least a day or two depending on the quality of the insulation in the freezer.
  • Open the freezer door only to take out food, to move it to a cooler or to add dry ice.
  • Use emergency measures; add insulation, cover the freezer with blankets. This will help to keep foods cold for a longer period of time. Do not cover the air vent openings. If alternate working mechanical refrigeration is available, use it. Use dry ice if it is available.
  • Use caution if food has thawed; if a frozen, potentially hazardous food is thawed and still at or below 45°F, the food may be cooked and used immediately.
  • Meat and poultry products should not be used if the temperature of the meats is above 45°F for more than 2 hours. Properly discard these products.
  • Do not refreeze the following: frozen dinners, vegetables, fish, shellfish and ice cream.

Dry Ice: If it seems likely that your freezer will not be on for several days, dry ice may help keep frozen food safe. If a flood or power outage is predicted, and you want to use dry ice, find a source in advance. Follow these guidelines for using and handling dry ice:

  • Wear gloves when handling dry ice. Do not touch it with your bare hands because dry ice causes severe frostbite and tissue damage.
  • Allow 2 ½ pounds of ice per cubic foot of freezer space. More will be needed for an upright freezer (ice should be placed on each shelf).
  • Place boards or heavy cardboard on top of packages. Place dry ice on top of boards. In an upright freezer, place dry ice on each shelf.
  • Cover the freezer with blankets or some other covering. Do not lock the freezer or cover the air vent openings (the gas given off by dry ice could cause an air-tight container to explode).
  • The carbon dioxide given off by dry ice can cause suffocation if inhaled in large amounts. Open windows or doors for ventilation, and use care when opening the freezer or storage compartment.