Ready or Not #224: What About the Meat

Boy, it sure hasn’t been easy to live in the East or Mid-West this year — the oppressive heat, the flooding, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes and now hurricane Irene.  At least with hurricane Irene, everybody had a few days warning to get their wits together and come up with a plan.

Being told that you have to leave the comfort of your own home, for your own safety, is difficult and frustrating.  Granted, those who live in Joplin and the surrounding areas that were hit with a tornado, would have loved to have a couple of days warning instead of only a couple of minutes.  But we have to work with the circumstances that we are given.

Now back to hurricane Irene.  I was impressed with the local government’s response to help those who didn’t have any way of leaving the area, to be bussed to a safe place and given shelter, even if it was not “like home.”

As I watched people leaving the large coastal cities, I felt so bad for all of the inconveniences they were experiencing and the fear of what they might come back to. But all I kept thinking about was frozen meat.  I know, stupid, probably even a little inappropriate after seeing the destruction the hurricane left behind.  But even as I tried to focus on all of the chaos, I still kept on thinking of all of the frozen meat and other frozen foods that were spoiling in everybody’s freezers!  I think I was stuck on that thought because my mom told me that she had spoken with a woman who made the comment that if the power ever went out for an extended period of time that it would be a shame because she would lose all of her frozen meat.

There are enough people worrying about the important stuff and I’m sure that when all is said and done the EOC’s (Emergency Operation Commander), other emergency personnel and politicians will dissect this disaster down to the last jot and tittle and I will wait with interest to hear their findings later.  Until then, I’ll worry about the frozen food, especially the frozen meat.

To be proactive and diminish the amount of power surges or power station blow-outs, it was decided that the power grid would be shut down, but that meant that as you were leaving your homes and apartments, your refrigerators and freezers would be turned off.  And even though the storm is over a lot of people still don’t have power.  Oddly enough I didn’t worry about the contents of the fridges because my first inclination was to pack everything except the extra condiments and take it with so that I could feed my family; better that than leaving it to spoil.  This of course is in addition to the food that I had in my 72 hr. kits.

But the contents of the freezer were going to be left behind – all alone to melt and spoil.  What a waste.

People immediately think about hooking up their generators, but you really don’t have that option because you won’t be there to monitor it and that would be unsafe.  Because there were a few days warning, my first instinct would be to bottle the meat.  I have the necessary pressure canner, bottles, lids, salt – and meat.  It would make for a couple of long nights (depending on how much meat I had), but for me it would be doable because I have bottled meat before.  I think for me that would be my first choice.  You might consider getting extra canning supplies for just such a desperate situation, not to mention the everyday use to build your food storage.

My second choice would be to buy as much dry ice as possible and pack it around the frozen goods and frozen meats.  To maximize the effect I would group all of the other food items (non-meat items) on the shelves above the meat (just in case the meat did thaw, the drippage wouldn’t contaminate the other frozen items), pack the meat items as tightly as possible and then arrange the dry ice around all of it.

If after re-packing the freezer there is extra space in the freezer I would fill it with pillows or blankets so that there wouldn’t be any dead air space.  This will help the freezer retain the cold longer.  I would then duct tape it shut so that the air couldn’t escape and then wrap whatever blankets or sleeping bags that I wasn’t taking with, around the outside of the freezer to give it even MORE insulation.  If you don’t have blankets, then you can use newspapers or magazines (that would just take more time).  Remember that duct tape is your friend and a very good storage item.

My third choice is to do everything as described above without the dry ice.  You’ve got to remember that a lot of people will probably want dry ice and it just won’t be available, so deal with it and start re-packing, stuffing and insulating without it.

Keeping the freezer shut and preparing it this way could make the contents last for no less than three days without power, but possibly up to a week.  Some might argue that it would be better to make sure that everything is near the bottom of the freezer because cold goes down and not up.  It is certainly better to at least try this than just shrugging your shoulders and walking away.

Last, but not least, pack it all up and take it with you.  If you have the space you might consider taking it and sharing it with all of your fellow refugees.  Waste not, want not.

I feel so much better after getting that off of my chest.  Now maybe I can start focusing on the other issues: as you were leaving for safety did you take your personal/insurance papers, medical information, emergency contact list, 72 hr. kit and your stored drinking water with you?  Well, did you?  And if you weren’t directly involved in the disaster, did you mentally go through your emergency evacuation plan/checklist?  If you didn’t, now is a good time to evaluate how you should respond.

Remember that September is National Preparedness Month.  Get prepared and make me proud.


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