Preparedness Guide – Food

Before a disaster, it is vital to know what kinds of foods and drinks you should store. Without proper precaution, a fully-stocked kitchen could quickly turn into a vast collection of spoiled, inedible trash.

It is especially important for the state of Hawaii to be prepared in the event of a disaster. According to Department of Emergency Management’s public information officer John Cummings, due to Hawaii’s isolation from the rest of its country, assistance from outside states would not be as readily available.

During a disaster, water may seem like one of the most obtainable items, but without power, safe water sources are limited. It is of upmost importance to know that you have access to good drinking water. “Assume seven days without food, water, or resupplies,” informed Maria Lutz, Director of Emergency Services for the Hawaii State Chapter of the American Red Cross. Optimal ways of storing water include filling up a bathtub, purchasing bottled water, or filling clean containers with tap water. Do not drink water from toilet flush tanks or bowls, radiators, waterbeds, or swimming pools/spas, warns the American Red Cross. Water may be obtained outdoors from rainwater, moving bodies of water such as rivers, ponds, lakes, and springs.

Likewise, items such as medicine, clothing, first aid kits, water, and food should last about a week. “Ideally, you’ll want long-lasting, non-perishable food that requires no heating,” stated Cummings. “Local favorites such as Spam, Vienna sausages, and sardines work great.”

The American Red Cross suggests various food supplies for stashing, including dried fruits, dry crackers, potatoes, and boxed powdered milk for use within six months. Many of the suggested items for use within a year are commonplace in homes, such as peanut butter, vitamins, canned juices, and jelly. Items that may be stored indefinitely include dried corn, instant coffee and tea, rice, dry pasta, and soybeans. The American Red Cross warns not to ingest salty foods when low on water, since they may cause thirst.

Power outages are likely during a disaster; assume there will be no access to heating. Remember to plan food accordingly by considering the number of people in a residence. Allot for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Also consider the nutritional value of these foods. Prepare early and pay attention to non-perishables containing proteins, dairies, fruits, and vegetables.

Perishable foods’ longevity can be extended during a power outage. By keeping refrigerator and freezer doors closed, food stays cold for about four hours. Refrigerators should be kept around 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 25 pounds of dry ice can keep perishables frozen three to four days in a 10-cubic-foot freezer.

Cooking is possible during a power outage with gas stoves. FEMA suggests unconventional cooking sources “including candle warmers, chafing dishes, fondue pots or a fireplace.” Canned foods may also be eaten out of their own cans. The American Red Cross cautions to “always make sure to extinguish open flames before leaving the room.”

In the event of an evacuation, it is easy to forget that one has a stash of supplies. Make sure they are easily accessible in one’s home. “You could use a rolling bag to store your supplies, making it easy to move,” added Cummings. “Supplies should be stored in a dark part of the house, avoiding direct sunlight.” Moisture should also be avoided, since it could lead to mold and spoiled items.

Regularly check long-term supplies to ensure they are still edible, usable, and in good condition. Rotate items annually to avoid expiration. An easy reminder would be to check supplies as disaster season approaches every year. Allow enough time before a disaster to replace any possibly perished, spoiled, or broken items.

If more containers of food and drink are opened than needed during a disaster, Cummings suggested using them to supplement other foods. For example, if more dried fruit packages were opened than needed, the dried fruit could be added to another person’s cereal, jerky, or mixed nuts. Save food from going to waste. Make use of plastic containers and bags to collect leftovers.

Despite Hawaii experiencing various natural disasters in the past, not everybody is prepared for the mischance of a hurricane or tsunami. “We’ve had three evacuations in the last three years, so I’d say most folks are well aware,” spoke Cummings. “But we could be made more aware.”

As soon as a disaster is forecasted, most general goods stores and markets will find themselves swamped with customers. Avoid the stress of long lines and low inventory by preparing beforehand.

Collecting supplies before a disaster does not take longer than a few hours and may one day be your family’s lifesaver.

Link to article on Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

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