After The Storm: Safety reminders following severe weather - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

After The Storm: Safety reminders following severe weather

CHATTANOOGA, TN. (WRCB) -- Following Friday's storms, here is a reminder about food safety. Knowing whether food is safe to eat during and after a loss of power is essential to reduce the risk of foodborne illness and to minimize discarding food that may be safe to eat.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department wants you to be aware of food safety recommendations if you are or have been without power.

Foods requiring refrigeration should always be kept at or below 40˚F, or frozen at 0˚F or below. During a power outage the temperature in a refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if the door is not opened. A full freezer will keep food frozen approximately 48 hours (half full freezer only 24 hours) if the door is not opened.

Once power is restored you will need to determine the safety of your food. The following general guidelines should be followed after a power outage:

•    Using an appliance thermometer is the best way to find out how cold the food has been kept. Check the temperature when the power comes back on. If the freezer thermometer reads 40°F or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen.

•    If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. You can't rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 °F or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook.

•    Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than 4 hours and the refrigerator door was kept shut. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40°F for two hours or more.

Preparation for the possibility of power interruption is the best way to stay healthy and safe. Power loss can occur anytime due to storms, flooding or other non-weather related events. Part of having an emergency plan includes keeping a safe food supply for you and your family.

This should include non-perishable foods such as canned goods and other packaged foods that do not require refrigeration. Having a non-electric can opener may also be essential during a power outage.

Contact your pharmacist if you are concerned about medications which are stored in the refrigerator. For more information on food safety, contact Environmental Health at 209-8110, or visit

Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning while using generators and other devices

Many people use generators during a power outage or following a weather emergency.
While generators can provide temporary power, they can also produce carbon monoxide, or CO, an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death.

CO is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by small gasoline engines, stoves, generators, lanterns, and gas ranges, or by burning charcoal and wood. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned and can die from breathing CO.

These devices should never be used inside a home, basement, garage, or camper.

The most common symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. High levels of CO inhalation can cause loss of consciousness and death.

Important CO Poisoning Prevention Tips from the CDC:

•    Never use a gas range or oven to heat a home.
•    Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage.
•    Never run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine outside an open window, door, or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area.
•    Never run a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage, or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open, unless the equipment is professionally installed and vented. Keep vents and flues free of debris, especially if winds are high. Flying debris can block ventilation lines.
•    Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, or portable camping stove inside a home, tent, or camper.
•    If conditions are too hot or too cold, seek shelter with friends or at a community shelter.
•    If CO poisoning is suspected, consult a health care professional right away.

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