Floridians urged to protect, health safety as Hurricane Irma reaches Sunshine State

With Hurricane Irma forecast to impact Florida, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) encourages local residents to take the following actions to protect their health and safety. during the storm:

Keeping food safe during disasters

  • Before the storm hits, move food to high shelves that will be as safe as possible from flooding. If food or bottles may have come into contact with flood water, consider them contaminated.
  • Begin freezing containers of water now so if the power goes out you can use that ice to help keep your food and medications cold. You also can buy ice or gel packs to keep food cold.
  • Freeze refrigerated items like leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you do not need immediately so they will remain at a safe temperature longer without electricity. To keep items frozen for longer, group them together in the freezer.
  • To keep your food at safe temperatures the longest, avoid opening your refrigerator and freezer. Your refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if the doors stay closed, and a full freezer will maintain its temperature for approximately 48 hours. A half-full freezer only maintains its temperature for about 24 hours.
  • Place appliance thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer so you will know if the food is a safe temperature. You should set your freezer at or below 0°F, and your refrigerator should be set to at or below 40°F.
  • Place meat and poultry to one side of the freezer or on a tray to prevent cross-contamination in case they thaw.
  • If food in your freezer has ice crystals or is below 40°F, the food may be safely refrozen.
  • When it comes to the safety of your food, when in doubt, throw it out.
  • Learn more at foodsafety.gov.

Protecting health during post-disaster clean-up, before the storm hits

  • If you haven’t had a tetanus vaccine in the past 10 years, get vaccinated because people can get infected with tetanus disease while cleaning up after storms. The bacteria that cause tetanus commonly can be found in soil, manure and dust, and infection can occur through punctures and even small scratches.

ASPR leads HHS in preparing the nation to respond to and recover from adverse health effects of emergencies, supporting communities’ ability to withstand adversity, strengthening health and response systems, and enhancing national health security. HHS is the principal federal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. To learn more, visit PHE.gov.