A hurricane, flood or earthquake can knock out your power or leave you without safe water for a week or more. If you have food allergies, you cannot rely on emergency shelters or distribution centers for food that is safe for you to eat.
What should you do to prepare for a natural disaster when you have food allergies? You will need to gather your medicines, stock your pantry with paper goods and shelf-stable foods, and know how to keep your food safe.
1. Stock Your Medical Kit
The American Red Cross suggests that all households should have a seven-day supply of medication at home in case of emergency. You should always have your emergency medical kit with you, stocked with medication, contact information and copies of your prescription. Plan ahead for a natural disaster.
- Check your auto-injector to make sure it has not expired.
- Gather all prescriptions and medications into one location in case you need to evacuate.
- Pack your vitamins - The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) suggests that adults and children continue to take multivitamins during a natural disaster. When you do not have fresh fruits and vegetables on hand, it is even more important to make sure that you are getting adequate nutrition.
2. Prepare Your Kitchen
You need an alternative method of cooking on hand if you have food allergies, since you will not be able to count on others to provide safe food for you. To make sure you will be able to cook safe foods, you will need:
- A camp stove or other method of cooking (fireplace, wood stove, grill, etc.)
- Pots and pans that can be used on the camp stove or over a fire.
- Plenty of tin foil for foil-wrapped cooking on a grill or in a fire.
- Pantry staples such as dried pasta, rice, canned vegetables and beans, canned soups, bottled tomato sauce or any shelf-stable prepared foods that are safe for your family to eat.
- Foods that you have cooked ahead of time and frozen. (You will need to transfer these to a cooler filled with ice if you do lose power.)
- Spices are not necessary for survival, but they do add flavor to food. Even just a sprinkle of garlic salt can make canned beans taste like a meal.
3. Have a Stash of Ready-to-Eat Foods
Sometimes it is just not possible to cook with a camp stove or grill. If you are experiencing hurricane-force winds, you will need to stay indoors for safety, and portable stoves and grills are not safe to use inside the house. Have a supply of healthy, ready-to-eat foods that do not need to be kept cold, such as:
Starchy foods supply quick energy that you may need when recovering from a natural disaster. Stock your pantry with safe carbs such as:
- Wheat-free crackers or pretzels
- Rice cakes
- Dried fruits
- Safe granola bars or snack mixes
- Safe cereal - boxed or homemade
Protein is the most difficult food to keep safe without refrigeration. If you are allergic to nuts or peanuts, many of the shelf-stable protein sources are off limits to you. Then again, these protein sources may be safe for you, but you should always check ingredients before buying or eating any of these foods:
- Nut butter substitutes such as soy butter or sunflower butter
- Sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- Canned tuna or salmon (beware of hidden dairy in canned fish)
- Canned or dried meat (check ingredients)
- Single-serving containers of safe milk substitute
4. Plan Ahead to Avoid Cross-Contamination
It is harder to clean adequately when you lack plentiful clean water. If some family members are eating foods that others are allergic to, there is a potential for cross-contamination. To avoid the risk of a reaction from other people’s food:
- Use disposable plates, bowls and utensils while your power and water are out to cut down on this risk.
- Do not share water bottles or utensils.
- Use disposable hand wipes, such as Wet Ones, to wash hands frequently.
5. Know How to Keep Your Food Safe
The safety of your food and water is not just related to potential allergens. Food can spoil quickly without power. A cooler – or several coolers – can keep food safe for several days, as long as you continually resupply the ice and the cooler stays below 40 degrees. (You may be able to get ice at an emergency shelter or distribution center even if your power is out.)
Take food safety seriously. The last thing you need in a power outage is food poisoning.