What to do after an evacuation

B.C. wildfires have forced some residents to evacuate their homes. Once you are back home, or if you have managed to stay in your home, you will have some special safety concerns.

Some of the main issues you should consider, include the following:

  • Food safety when you have a power outage is a big issue. Your drinking water may also be affected, so check with a water supplier for an update as to the quality in your area.
  • Once you have lost power, then use a generator-powered refrigeration unit to keep the food cool. If you do not have access to this type of unit, then leave your food in the freezer or refrigerator, and keep the door closed.
  • The refrigerator needs to keep a temperature of four degrees Celsius or below. The food in the freezer should remain frozen solid. Your fridge should keep the food cool for up to 12 hours. A freezer can keep the food safe for a number of days, as long as it is kept closed.
  • If you are unsure about how cold the fridge or freeze has been, then you will have to physically check for spoilage. Any dairy products that smell sour should be discarded. Your frozen foods that have thawed, should be discarded. Once food in the freezer has reached four degrees Celsius, it should not be frozen again. Check the ice cream to see if it has thawed and then re-frozen, as this is a good indicator that your freezer power was interrupted and thawing occurred.

The insurance answer is that you may have a claim for an extended power outage. Make a list as you discard items, and if you can, take a photograph for documentation.

This is a time of common sense. The old adage, "if in doubt then throw it out" certainly applies here. Keep a list, as to what has been damaged or destroyed.

Check with your water supplier as to the status of your area's water supply. Watch for public notices, and have potable water on hand for emergency use.

The concern is that your water system may have some fire retardant residue from the efforts made to control the blazes. Your watershed area will increase their monitoring for changes in water quality. Watch for public notifications for a warning of increased risk or uncertainty, associated with drinking water use.

It is increased levels of nitrates, that can affect the private surface and and ground water sources. Your private water system can be sampled to ensure compliance with the Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines, for nitrates (45 mg/L nitrate or 10mg/L as nitrate-nitrogen). You can use a water supplier to have a test done on your water, or you can get sample bottles and take them to a laboratory yourself. You will need to check your own area resources.