Do your managers and food staff know what to do during a power outage at your food establishment? Whether it is hurricane season, a bad snow storm, or a downed power line, make sure your food establishment is prepared to handle an emergency. In Arlington, our number one goal is to keep the food and your patrons safe. Here you’ll find tips and resources to follow during an emergency power outage.
- Have a plan ready for your staff to follow during a power outage
- Make a kit (just like you would at your house) with flashlights, batteries, water, and essentials—make sure you have food thermometers as these are essential to check the maintenance of proper temperatures in your establishment’s food stock
- Create a list of important numbers (owner, managers, utility and power companies)
- Train your staff regularly on what to do during an emergency
During a Power Outage
- Assist any patrons or guests safely out of the restaurant if the outage is expected to last longer than a few minutes
- Cease all cooking operations and discard undercooked foods
- Do not place hot food in refrigerator as it will rapidly rise the internal temperature
- Use ice or ice baths to rapidly cool small batches of hot food
- Continue to practice good personal and food hygiene. If available, continue to utilize water and sanitizer to clean surfaces, utensils, and dishes. Wash hands often and if unavailable, utilize hand sanitizers.
Pay special attention to the potentially hazardous food (PHF) in your restaurant. Potentially hazardous foods are those foods such as high protein foods (meat, eggs, dairy) and cooked vegetables that support the rapid and progressive growth of disease causing bacteria. Foodborne illnesses can be caused by bacteria that can multiply rapidly in foods when the food is held in the temperature danger zone (41°F–140°F).
- Make sure all foods in your establishment stay out of the danger zone of 41°F–140°F
- Refrigerator: Keep doors closed as much as possible. Discard any PHFs that have been above 41°F for greater than four hours.
- Freezer: Keep doors closed. Bunch items together to keep temperatures down. Place ice or dry ice in freezer for prolonged periods of outage. Maintain all foods frozen solid (below 0°F). Discard any completely thawed food items or temperatures below 0°F.
- Hot Holding: It is best to discard any foods that need hot holding after they drop below 140°F. You can refrigerate or freeze these items but risk the escalated dropping of temperatures that could harm your other food items.
- Look at other options to store food if the outage is expected to last, such as refrigerated trucks. Never take food to personal homes for storage and freezing.
WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!
The following is a list of foods that should be discarded (PHF) after four hours above 41°F and foods that can be kept safely at any temperature but may impact the quality of the foods.
- Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and egg substitutes—raw or cooked
- Milk, cream, and soft cheese
- Casseroles, stews, or soups
- Lunch meats and hot dogs
- Creamy-based foods made on-site
- Custard, chiffon, pumpkin, or cheese pies
- Cream-filled pastries
- Cookie dough made with eggs
- Whipped butter
- Cut melons
- Cooked vegetables
- Butter or margarine
- Hard and processed cheeses
- Fresh uncut fruits and vegetables
- Dried fruits and coconut
- Opened jars of vinegar-based salad dressings, jelly, relish, taco sauce, barbecue sauce, mustard, ketchup, olives, and peanut butter
- Fruit juices
- Fresh herbs and spices
- Fruit pies, breads, rolls, and muffins
- Cakes, except cream cheese frosted or cream-filled
- Flour and nuts
After Power is Restored
- Check all foods with a food thermometer to ensure they are out of the temperature danger zone and still safe to serve consumers—immediately discard any items that are not safe!
- Separate refrigerated and freezer items to assist in the rapid cooling of the products still safe
- Ensure there is no other damage to the food establishment and all powered utilities are working
- Call the Arlington County Public Health Division at 703–228–7400. Your restaurant will likely need to be checked by an Environmental Health Specialist before opening. This means a brief visit to ensure that your establishment is safe and ready to reopen.
- Emergency Handbook for Food Managers (CDC)
- Emergency Action Plan for Retail Food Establishments (Conference for Food Protection)
- Food, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Information for Use Before and After a Disaster or Emergency (CDC)
- Keep Food Safe in an Emergency (Foodsafety.gov)
- Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency (USDA)