Safety tips during storm recovery

Food Safety When the Power is Out

From Linda Fischer, Public Information Officer, Benton County Disaster Recovery Coalition

It may be days for many families to get electricity back. While generators can provide temporary power until electricity is restored it is important to follow food safety guidelines.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, refrigerated or frozen foods may not be safe to eat after the loss of power. The refrigerator should be at 40 degrees F or below for food to be safe. After the power is out, food is usually safe in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours. After 4 hours without power, refrigerated perishable food can be put in a cooler with ice or another cold source to keep them at 40 degrees F or below. If food is not maintained at this temperature it should be thrown out.

Never taste food to see if it is safe to eat. Any food with unusual odor, color, or texture should be thrown out. If there is any doubt, throw it out.

For food in freezers, a full freezer can last up to 48 hours provided the door hasn’t been opened. A half-full freezer will keep 24 hours. Using an appliance thermometer in a freezer is helpful to check to see if the temperature is at 40 degrees F or below. You can safely refreeze or cook thawed frozen food that still contains ice crystals or is at 40 degrees F or below.

For more information about food safety in disasters, check out the Center for Disease Control’s website, /foodwater/facts.html

Benton County Disaster Coalition Seeking Funds to Help Disaster Impacted Families

The Benton County Disaster Recovery Coalition is seeking monetary donations to assist families impacted by the August 10th storm. The Coalition responds to multi-dwelling disasters to assist families in the county who have unmet needs after all other sources of funds have been exhausted. Individual insurance, federal and state assistance would be utilized first and if a family still had unmet needs existing that creates a hardship for the family, then the Coalition will do what they can to provide financial support.

Coalition funds are limited as monies are all raised through donations and grants. Shortly after organizing the Coalition became a 501c3 organization to accept donations, which it relies upon for funds to help families.

The Benton County Disaster Recovery Coalition was established after the flood of 2008. The Coalition’s mission is “To strengthen area-wide disaster coordination in Benton County by sharing information, simplifying resident access, and jointly resolving cases with unmet needs”. It works directly with Benton County Emergency Management. Members of the committee are local agency representatives and volunteers.

Since the Disaster Recovery Coalition began they have responded to the Flood of 2008, the 2011 windstorm, the 2016 tornado and also the 2016 September flood. Once activated the group continues to meet as needed until all disaster impacted families with unmet needs are back on their feet. Often this has resulted in months of weekly meetings.

All Coalition funds raised goes to support recovery efforts for Benton County families. The Coalition is a 501c3 organization. Anyone wishing to make a donation may do so by sending a check to: Benton County Disaster Recovery Coalition, PO Box 125, Vinton, IA 52349.

Avoid Scams After Natural Disaster

With all the storm damage this week, local citizens are reminded to avoid scams when finding someone to conduct repairs. The first step is to contact your insurance agent. Finding a contractor could be a challenge with the extensive damage in our area. Watch out for contractors who offer to do post-disaster work on the spot and expects payment in advance. Always check out a contractor you do not know by checking with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and check to be sure they are licensed to work in Iowa. All contractors in Iowa are required to register with Iowa Workforce Development. Make sure they carry liability and workmen’s compensation coverage and ask to see verification.

Ask the contractor for a detailed written estimate for repair. Be sure to read the contracts thoroughly before signing. Keep a copy of all paperwork. Furthermore, make sure that your insurance company will cover the repairs. Also, verify that the insurance adjuster handling your claim is licensed. Check with your insurance company.

Watch out for door-to-door solicitations for donations or repairs. Even if they seem legitimate, ask for more information rather than give them money on the spot. Insurance damage payment checks should never be signed over to contractors. Pay the contractor yourself.

Also, avoid disaster solicitations via phone or social media. Do your research on the organization. Ask or check how they help disaster victims. There will be local organizations working on local disasters who would use your donations locally.

Phone scammers will be common also. With phone scammers avoid calls from unknown numbers. Do not respond to questions, especially those that ask for a “Yes” or “No” answer. Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately and ask them to mail you information on their company. Note the phone number and after they hang up you can check to see if the number is legitimate.

Response to Monday’s disaster is an ongoing fluid situation.

Families who lost their homes in the August 10th storm and are needing shelter are now asked to call the State 211 Helpline Center. People can call 211 or their toll free number: 1-800-244-7431.

211 is a free, comprehensive information and referral system linking Iowa and Nebraska residents to health and human service programs, community services, disaster services and governmental programs. 211 is a one-stop source of information for people looking for services.

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