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Public Health

Posted on: February 6, 2024

Protect Your Health: Food, medication, and generator safety during a power outage

NAPA COUNTY - During a prolonged power outage, your food may become unsafe to eat and increase your risk of illness. Medications that need to be refrigerated may also become less effective or stop working. Finally, if you are using a generator, it is important to follow safety guidelines to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, shock, or electrocution.

Food

  • If you are not certain food is safe, throw it out.
  • If you have lost power for a prolonged period of time, discard the contents of your refrigerator/freezer: 
    • 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. The decision whether to discard or to save food is listed in the guide, “Refrigerated Food and Power Outages: When to Save It and When to Throw It Out.”
    • Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than 4 hours and the refrigerator door was kept shut. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or leftovers) that has been at temperatures above 40° F for 2 hours or more (or 1 hour if temperatures are above 90° F).

Medication

Generators

  • Prevent Shock and Electrocution 
    • Never attach a generator directly to the electrical system of structure (home, office, trailer, etc.) unless a qualified electrician has properly installed the generator with a transfer switch. 
    • Always plug electrical appliances directly into the generator using the manufacturer's supplied cords or extension cords that are grounded (3-pronged). Inspect the cord to make sure they are fully intact and not damaged. Never use frayed or damaged extension cords.
    • Keep a generator dry; do not use it in the rain or in wet conditions. If needed, protect a generator with a canopy. 
  • Prevent Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning 
    • Never use a generator indoors or in enclosed spaces such as garages, crawl spaces, and basements. 
    • Make sure a generator has three to four feet of clear space on all sides and above it to ensure adequate ventilation. 
    • Be cautious when using a generator outdoors to ensure it is not placed near doors, windows, and vents that could allow CO to enter and build up in occupied spaces. 
    • If you or others show symptoms of CO poisoning (dizziness, headaches, nausea, tiredness) get to fresh air immediately and seek medical attention. Do no re-enter the area until it is determined to be safe by trained and properly equipped personnel.  
  • Fire Hazards 
    • Generators become hot while running and remain hot for long periods after they are stopped. Generator fuels (gasoline, kerosene, etc.) can ignite when spilled on hot engine parts. 
    • Before refueling, shut down the generator and allow it to cool. 
    • Gasoline and other generator fuels should be stored and transported in approved containers that are properly designed and marked for their contents and vented. 
    • Keep fuel containers away from flame producing and heat generating devices (such as the generator itself, water heaters, cigarettes, lighters, and matches). Do not smoke around fuel containers. 
    • More information on generator safety can be found here
  • Propane
    • Never use propane tanks for cooking or heating in indoor spaces. 

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