As the storm season approaches the National Hurricane Center has called on the public to become better informed about hurricane hazards and preparedness measures.

Dry ice, a key preparedness action item, plays a vital role in keeping perishable items cold for up to a week in the event of a power outage caused by hurricanes and other major storms, say leading government agencies and Airgas have been happy to offer householders some advice.

Once only available directly from manufacturers, dry ice is now readily available in many grocery stores across the country. Airgas Dry Ice, the nation's largest manufacturer of dry ice, also sells its Penguin Brand® Dry Ice in over 4,500 stores nationwide in convenient packages for consumer use.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture all confirm the importance of dry ice in the event of a power outage.

$quot;With our national network of production plants, we are able to send emergency dry ice to areas affected by hurricanes or severe storms,$quot; said Phil Filer, president of Airgas Carbonic and Dry Ice, based in Duluth, Georgia. $quot;With no electricity and no access to fresh food, dry ice is a way to keep foods from spoiling.$quot;

Filer added, $quot;With Penguin Brand Dry Ice available in many grocery stores, families can take the necessary steps to insure that food is preserved before the storm strikes, simply by going to the nearest supermarket.$quot;

Airgas recommends purchasing dry ice one day before the storm arrives and storing the dry ice, wrapped in a towel, in an insulated cooler until ready to use. Do not store dry ice in a working mechanical freezer. During a power outage, place approximately 25 lbs. of dry ice on the top shelf of the freezer to keep foods frozen for up to four days. Place the same quantity of dry ice in the lower part of the refrigerator to keep foods cold.

Filer added that having dry ice on hand ahead of the storm also might help during mandatory evacuations. $quot;As we saw in recent hurricanes, streets and highways can become virtual parking lots. Evacuees can prepare by packing a cooler with essential food items and dry ice before leaving their homes.$quot;