Refrigerators & Freezers

During a hurricane emergency, leave the refrigerator and freezer plugged in and turn them up to the coldest setting as they can maintain food-preserving temperatures for up to two days after power has been lost. Open the refrigerator and freezer only when necessary to maintain food preserving temperatures for as long as possible. Use dry ice in the freezer if it is available. After placing the dry ice into the freezer, cover the freezer with blankets, quilts or some other insulating covering. Be sure the covering does not obstruct any air ventilation openings as the power may go off unexpectedly and ventilation in the freezer will be needed. It will also help to put crumpled newspapers between the freezer and the covering. Avoid contacting the dry ice with skin. Use paper or gloves in handling the dry ice to avoid a severe burn.

Freezer Stops Working

If freezer stops working, the food in the freezer will stay frozen depending on:

  • The amount of food in the freezer - A full freezer will stay cold many hours longer than a freezer only one-quarter full.
  • The type of food in the freezer - A freezer full of meat will not warm up as fast as a freezer full of baked food.
  • The temperature of the food - The colder the food, the longer it will stay frozen.
  • The quality of the freezer - A well-insulated freezer will keep food frozen much longer than one with little insulation.
  • The size of the freezer - The larger the freezer, the longer the food will stay frozen.

Follow These Steps

The following steps should be taken in the event the freezer stops working:

  • Estimate how long the power will be off to determine how long the food will stay frozen. With the freezer closed, the food in a fully loaded freezer will usually stay frozen two days. If the food is in a freezer with less than half a load, it will probably not stay frozen for more than a day.
  • If arrangements have been made in advance to have the food stored in a locker plant, call the plant to see if it is operating. If the plant is operating and it is possible to transport the food to the plant, make sure the food is wrapped in newspaper and blankets or placed in an insulated container before transporting it to the plant to prevent it from thawing.
  • If the food is stored in the freezer at home, refreeze the food quickly by turning the temperature control on the freezer to the coldest setting once it is operating again. Clean the freezer before refilling it. Place the warmer packages against the refrigerated surface if possible, but stack them so air can circulate around them. After the food is well frozen, turn the temperature control to its usual setting. If the freezer is too full, move some of the colder packages to the refrigerator, and return them to the freezer gradually.

Thawing & Refreezing

  • Foods that have been frozen and thawed require the same care as foods that have never been frozen. Use refrozen food as soon as possible.
  • Partial thawing and refreezing does reduce the quality of foods, particularly fruits, vegetables and prepared foods. Red meats are affected less than many other foods by partial thawing and refreezing. Food that has thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or if it is still cold - about 40 degrees Fahrenheit - and has been at this temperature no longer than one or two days after thawing.
  • Thawed fruits can be refrozen if they still taste and smell good. Fruits usually ferment when they start to spoil. A small amount of fermentation will not make fruits dangerous to eat; however, it may spoil their flavor.
  • Care should be taken in determining whether or not thawed meat and poultry should be refrozen. Meats and poultry become unsafe to eat when they start to spoil. Therefore, each package of food should be examined before determining whether or not it should be refrozen. If the color or odor of the thawed food is poor or questionable, dispose of it, as it may be dangerous to eat.
  • Do not use melted ice cream.
  • If refreezing the thawed food is not possible, canning it may be the only practical solution to saving most, if not all, of it.