|Health department offers emergency preparedness tips
In today’s world, emergencies such as tornadoes, floods, storms, earthquakes and disease outbreaks can happen with little or no warning. That is why it is so important to have an emergency preparedness stockpile of healthy food to use in an emergency.
You may be without clean drinking water, electricity, refrigeration or phone service for several days or even weeks. In some cases such as during a flu pandemic, you may be asked to stay home and “shelter in place.” You will have to stay wherever you are, whether it is at the workplace, school, home, vehicle or outdoors, for a few hours to several days in order to stay safe. Sheltering in place can save your life in an emergency.
You should have at least a 3-day supply of food and water stored in your home and at least a gallon of water per person per day. It’s recommended to have at least one week’s supply of food and water. Choose healthy foods that don’t require refrigeration and are low in salt and sugar.
If you cannot afford to buy everything for your stockpile at once, pick up one or two items every time you go to the grocery store. You can also buy in bulk and share the cost and food with a family member, friend or neighbor. Stock up on items when they are on sale.
Once you have assembled your stockpile, on a set date or annual event, such as when it is time to change your clocks for Daylight Savings Time, discard anything that has expired and replenish foods that you have used from the stockpile.
It is best to store your stockpile somewhere that is easy to access during an emergency. Keep your supplies together in a box or plastic bin that can be kept tightly closed to protect contents from humidity or pests. If items are stored on shelves, rotate older items to the front and newer items to the back. Refer to the stamped expiration dates to ensure foods are still edible. Even bottled water has an expiration date. Sometimes canned foods do not have expiration dates or have dates that are illegible. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, high acid foods such as tomatoes, grapefruit and pineapple can be stored for a year to 18 months. Low-acid canned foods, such as meat, poultry, fish and most vegetables will keep two to five years if stored properly.
Beyond expiration dates, you should examine the contents of your stockpile to occasionally make sure they are still fresh. Boxes or containers that have opened or cans that contain rust, are bulging, have punctures, dents or leaks should be discarded.
It is also a good idea to include disposable utensils, paper plates, bowls and cups in your stockpile, since you may not be able to wash dishes. An emergency plan should also include a flashlight and batteries, a manual can opener, a battery operated or wind up radio, prescription and over-the-counter medications, and important phone numbers.
For more information on stockpiling foods for an emergency, call Herkimer County Public Health at 315-867-1176 or visit their website at www.nyhealth.gov. For recipes using canned foods and healthy cooking during emergencies, visit www.busycooks.about.com (see “no cook” recipes), www.mealtime.com, www.foodandhealth.com or wwwy2kitchen.com.