by Samantha Pauso | Sept. 14, 2021
Like many local households, I live in a multi-generational home with more than one refrigerator and freezer to store leftover food from family gatherings and the bounty from the weekly Costco run.
Our home is located two blocks from the ocean, outside of all flood zones, and on top of a hill so during emergency situations we opt to “shelter in place.” Our house also becomes the safety hub for extended family, so feeding the masses is always expected.
When preparing for an emergency, a home survival kit, emergency food and water are essential during disasters and extended power outages. A portable radio, first aid kit and a 14-day supply of non-perishable foods for each person are some of the important items to have on hand. A complete checklist can be found in Hawaiian Electric’s Helpful Tips for Emergency Preparedness.
I prepare for emergencies the same way we did for our family camping trips. Growing up we would spend weeks at a time camping during the summer — and when I say camping, I mean roughing it at the beach. We’d pack our food in coolers and prepare meals over an open fire, later upgrading to propane stoves. Basically, it’s the same drill when dealing with a power outage at home: We pull out coolers, set up the stoves in the garage and quickly look through the freezer to see what meats we have available for meals. From my experience, we already have everything we need to sustain ourselves during an emergency while sheltering in the comfort of our home.
Deciding what to feed our large family while sheltering in place depends on what we find in the refrigerators and pantry. Ground hamburger, pork butt or stew meat are always the beginnings of a big pot of comfort food. The main goal besides making sure everyone is fed is of course to make sure that we deplete all perishable items, so that they don’t go to waste. If the power is out, you want to use up everything in your refrigerator first then move things from the freezer into a cooler to defrost slowly while also using them as ice to keep your cooler cold.
Safety precautions to remember when sheltering in place:
- Food in your refrigerator will keep cold for about four hours after the power goes out if the door stays closed.
- A fully stocked freezer will stay frozen for up to 48 hours and about 24 hours if half-full. If food has thawed completely, be sure to cook and eat right away.
- Food and water are essential — it’s recommended that you have emergency food supply for 14 days per person.
- One gallon of water per person per day for drinking, cooking, and sanitization. That amounts to a lot of water for a multi-generational household. If sheltering at home, you have the option of boiling tap water. Water must be boiling rigorously for at least 5 minutes, then cooled before it is safe to drink.
- If using a generator, make sure you are in a well-ventilated area to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
So, as you prepare for an emergency, take time to look through what you already have on hand. You may surprise yourself and realize that you’re more prepared than you thought.
Samantha Pauso is a senior community affairs consultant at Hawaiian Electric Company.