NC Cooperative Extension Resources


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

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.

For more information, contact Benjamin Chapman.


Extension Food Safety Specialist and Assistant Professor
Agricultural and Human Sciences

North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.

Publication date: Oct. 20, 2016

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