NC State Extension Publications


After a power failure, you might not have heat, refrigeration or water. To prepare food when you have no power, follow these guidelines:

Little or no heat or electricity?

  • If you have limited heat for cooking, choose foods that cook quickly.
  • Do not cook frozen foods because they require much more cooking time and heat than canned goods.
  • Eat commercially canned foods straight from the can.

If you can’t use your stove, you can use a:

  • Fireplace.
  • Candle warmer, such as a fondue pot. Do not use a candle warmer to cook raw meats, fish, poultry, and eggs.
  • An outside camp stove and charcoal burner. Never use a fuel-burning camp stove or charcoal burner inside your home, even in a fireplace. Fumes from these stoves can be deadly.

Little or no refrigeration?

  • If you are without refrigeration, open only enough cans or jars of food for one meal. Leftover food in jars and cans cannot be saved.
  • If necessary, substitute canned and powdered milk for fresh milk.
  • Prepare and eat foods in their original containers, if possible.

With the door closed, food in most freezers will stay below 40°F for up to 3 days, even in summer. Thawing rate depends on:

  • The amount of food in the freezer.
  • The kind of food.
  • The temperature of the food.
  • The freezer.
  • The size of freezer.

You may safely re-freeze foods that still contain ice crystals or that have been kept at 41°F or below.

Little or no safe water?

  • Substitute liquids from canned vegetables for water in unsweetened cooked dishes.
  • All water from questionable sources that will be used in food preparation must be boiled for at least 10 minutes before use.

For More Information

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For more information on disaster preparedness and recovery visit the NC Disaster Information Center.

Materials adapted from University of Florida / Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences’ Disaster Handbook.


Extension Food Safety Specialist and Associate Professor
Agricultural & Human Sciences

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Publication date: Oct. 20, 2016

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