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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Flood Preparation and Safety

With so many parts of the east coast experiencing flooding, I thought I’d share some helpful tips and links in case you have the misfortune of experiencing flooding or are in danger of flooding. It’s really important to be prepared with all the crazy weather the country has been experiencing.

Be prepared:

If the weather is threatening, make sure you listen to NOAA weather radio so you can be aware of any danger for your area. Check out the Flood Safety Checklist from the American Red Cross for important information on preparing for possible flooding.

If your area is in danger of flooding or has flooded, it is best to evacuate until the authorities say it is safe to return. There are many dangers lurking in flood water so it’s best not to be around. If you are caught in a flash flood, move to higher ground quickly.

If flooding is taking place, do not drive through flooded roads. It’s hard to tell how deep the water is and it takes less than two feet of swiftly moving water to sweep a car away. Even if the water isn’t moving swiftly, high water can flood your car and you will become stranded. Many people are killed by driving through flooded roads. They don’t realize how deep the water is and they get caught up in the swiftly moving current. Don’t take chances!

Keep children out of the water. Children like to play in water, but floodwater can contain many hazards that are very dangerous.

After a Flood:

Here are some food safety tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Food Safety and Flooding

• Drink only bottled water if flooding has occurred.

• Thoroughly wash all metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils that came in contact with flood water with hot soapy water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of one teaspoon of chlorine bleach per quart of water.


• Canned foods, including those bought in stores as well as home-canned foods.

• All foods in cardboard boxes, paper, foil, cellophane or cloth should be thrown out.

• Meat, poultry, eggs or fish.

• Spices, seasonings, extracts, flour, sugar, grain, coffee and other staples in canisters.

• Unopened jars with waxed cardboard seals such as mayonnaise and salad dressing. Also throw away preserves sealed with paraffin.

• Wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers.


• Canned foods that did not come into contact with flood waters.

• Dishes and glassware if they are sanitized by boiling in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of one teaspoon of chlorine bleach per quart of water.

• When in doubt, throw it out!

Food Safety and Power Outages

• Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. Each time the door is opened, a significant amount of refrigeration is lost.

• The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full and the door remains closed.)

• Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40° F or below.

• Never taste a food to determine its safety!

• Obtain dry or block ice to keep your refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for two days.

• If the power has been out for several days then check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer or food thermometer. If the food still contains ice crystals or is at 40° F or below, then the food is safe.

• If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer then check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, then the food is safe.

• Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items after four hours without power.

For more helpful tips on flood safety, check out these links:

Floods (Dept. of Homeland Security)

Flooding (Environmental Protection Agency)

Flood Cleanup and the Air In Your Home (Environmental Protection Agency) – PDF

Protect Yourself from Mold (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Flood Fire Safety (United States Fire Administration)

What Consumers Need to Know about Food and Water Safety during Hurricanes, Power Outages, and Floods (Food and Drug Administration)

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