Thursday, May 11, 2006

Hurricanes & Freezers in a Blackout

Hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 1, according to Frank Lepore, public affairs officer for the National Weather Center.

“Each family and each business needs to have a plan for what they’re going to do,” Lepore said.

Unfortunately, Lepore said, too many residents postpone hurricane preparations until lines for seasonal merchandise are very long and prices are very high. Purchase canned goods, water, batteries and other hurricane-related supplies before the stores are swamped with panic buyers.

I have a friend who buys an extra gallon of water every time she goes to the store. It's important; last year after Hurricane Wilma, my apartment building did not have water or electricity for a few days. Of course, we were fortunuate compared to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. But the last storm season was a wakeup call.

A shop-now strategy enables you to take advantage of sales and weekly specials offered by different retailers. Items like water, batteries and nonperishable lunch treats are frequently sold at sharp discounts. And If you don’t have storm shutters, buy plywood now when it’s still cheap and available, Lepore said.

My supply list includes: batteries, lanterns, flashlights, canned food, battery-operated radio, banquet style warming trays with candles, foil pans and other goodies. I'll shop in stages and hide my stash from the kids,who love to use the batteries for toys.

“Know your vulnerabilities,” Lepure said.

For example, I live in a neighborhood that is very vulnerable to frequent and sustained power outages. When my daughter blows a bubble from our porch balcony, the lights go off all over Miami Beach! Hence, our storm preparations must always factor in life without electricity.

Sub-Zero Freezers and Blackouts

During storm-prone months, many consumers deliberately reduce the load on the family freezer because of the fear of power loss. But I have chatted with two appliance experts about freezers and power outages. Representatives from both companies touted the benefits of a packed freezer during a power outage.

“Generally speaking a full freezer is going to retain cold longer, with food items serving as blocks of ice that help maintain sub-zero temperatures longer,” according to an email reply from Stacie Barnett, a spokeswoman for Sub-Zero Freezer Company.

Freezer Advice from Sears

Dean Schwartz, a refrigerator buyer for Sears Holding Corp. (Kemore appliances), agrees. A packed freezer, Schwartz said, has fewer pockets of warm air.

“Keep it shut,” he said. “Humidity is a huge enemy of a freezer or a refrigerator.”

Both companies declined to comment on how long food is safe after a power outage.

“Because of so many environmental factors, we don’t note a maximum length of time that food is safe after a power outage. Rather, Sub-Zero advises homeowners know the “danger zone” for unsafe food temperature. Generally, food spoilage occurs between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit,” Barnett wrote in her email.

“Therefore, in the event of a power outage, it is advised that consumers stick a thermometer in the freezer to assess the temperature. Keeping the door closed keeps food colder longer, but check the thermometer occasionally to assess when the “danger zone” is reached. Homeowners never want to leave food in the danger zone for more than two hours.”


Adrift At Sea said...

Another good thing to do is to leave a pile of ice cubes in a ziplock bag, inside the freezer. Then if you open the freezer after a power outage, or when you return from a vacation, check the ziplock bag. If the bag has a solid block of ice in the bottom, it means that the freezer was off for long enough for the ice cubes to melt, and that all of the food in it is suspect.

A Big Wind said...

Hi - Good hurricane information. I actually grew up in South Florida and I was in High School during Hurricane Andrew (we lived in Fort Lauderdale East of 95). Before Andrew made its fateful turn southward to level Miami-Dade, they thought it was coming through Ft. Lauderdale and my family and I evacuated to Gainesville.

Hurricanes are just a reality of living in this wonderful state and so we have started our own blog focused on Hurricane and Consumer protection. Given the up tick in hurricanes and the Katrina disaster - we are worried that most citizens are vulnerable. A Big Wind is a community blog and forum with one mission: Hurricane protection through consumer protection, community involvement, and commerce. Let us know your thoughts.


A Big Wind