Christie Administration Urges Residents to Be Aware of Food Safety, Generator Safety Issues
The Christie Administration and Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd urge residents who have lost power to keep their refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature and, if using emergency generators, to follow manufacturers instructions.
"While portable generators can be very helpful during outages, it is important to follow safety guidelines when using one," said Commissioner O'Dowd. "Running generators within a basement, garage or any enclosed or partially-enclosed structure will lead to a dangerous - and often fatal - accumulation of carbon monoxide (CO). Because the gas is odorless and colorless, its effects are not recognized and people will fall asleep or not wake up.
Exposure to CO can produce headaches, sleepiness, fatigue, confusion and irritability at low levels. At higher levels, it can result in nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, impaired vision and coordination, and death.
Those who have lost power should keep their refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Food will stay cold in the refrigerator for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full)--if the door remains closed. Perishable food that may have been above 40 degrees for two hours or more should be discarded.
"Perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, and eggs that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed, even when they are thoroughly cooked," said Commissioner O'Dowd.
If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 degrees or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook. If you plan to eat refrigerated or frozen meat, poultry, fish or eggs while it is still at safe temperatures, it's important that each item is thoroughly cooked.
Adding block ice or dry ice to your refrigerator if the electricity is expected to be off for more than four hours. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep an 18-cubic foot fully-stocked freezer cold for two days.
The following safety tips should be followed when using generators:
If you are using a generator and suspect CO poisoning take immediate action including:
For additional information on food safety and power outages, please visit http://www.nj.gov/health/er/natural.shtml and http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/recovery.asp.
For more information on generator safety, please visit: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/co/generator.shtm