PART II: Emergency Preparation & Response for Foodservice & Retail Food Establishments

Mark Miklos, CP-FS

On the heals of the recent experience with Hurricane Laura, Active Food Safety launched this blog series on Emergency Preparation & Response. In the first installment we discussed five ideas to get you started; writing an emergency operating plan, confirming vendors & supplies, considering how to limit operations, coordinating with the local regulatory authority and employee safety.  

You can revisit Part I and refresh on these pointers by clicking here!

Since that Blog went to press another hurricane has made landfall along the Gulf Coast of the United States, Hurricane Sally.  There is still a long way to go until the official end of the hurricane season on November 1. With that in mind we offer Part II in our Emergency Preparation & Response Series; a discussion about an element critical to any emergency planning architecture, namely a Master Planning Matrix.

Everyone in your company is a stakeholder when it comes to emergency planning and response, from front line staff to senior executives, from food safety professionals to those in the IT department and from the marketing and communications team to the purchasing professionals. It is true that in some operating companies a single individual wears multiple hats while in larger regional or national chains entire departments are built around specific functions.  It does not matter. Keeping track of all the preparation responsibilities and timelines for executing your response plan demands the kind of detailed planning that a Master Planning Matrix will help you keep up with.

We are indebted to Waffle House, Inc., a company with a well-deserved and long-standing reputation for hurricane response for the basic framework of this matrix approach.  In recognition of the excellent work done by this restaurant operating company in helping communities return to normal faster the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) has coined the phrase, “the Waffle House Index” when it measures the severity of a natural disaster.

To begin your matrix, the “X” or horizontal axis is comprised of the various departments or areas of responsibility in your company while the “Y” or vertical axis identifies time horizons.  Let’s consider the “X” axis first.  At the very least this should include the following departmental functions: a designated Close Support Coordinator, Operations (at the individual restaurant or unit level), Operations (at the multi-unit level up to and including senior company leadership), Purchasing, Marketing/Communications, Construction or Facilities, Information Technology, Security, Auditing & Control, Human Resources and of course, Food Safety.  Depending on how your business is organized you may have more, or fewer functional areas represented.

The “Y” axis represents time horizons.  Keep in mind that this model is predicated upon hurricane planning when there is typically advanced warning of an approaching storm.  The five subdivisions on the time horizon include Pre-season Preparation, Three to Five Days Out, Forty-eight Hours Out, Twenty-Four Hours Out and Post-Landfall.  These time horizons are also flexible and depending on the scope of your organization you may feel the need for more or fewer gradients.

It’s not practical within the limitations of this blog to fill in a completely detailed Master Planning Matrix but as an illustration let’s look at one functional department in a hypothetical restaurant operating company to see how it might define its responsibilities according to the time horizons specified in this model.  Let us consider the purchasing department.

It may seem daunting, but the effort invested to build out a Master Planning Matrix ahead of time will be a Godsend during a disaster.  In this blog we introduced the concept of a planning matrix and touched on a single example.  At Active Food Safety we can help you build a comprehensive planning matrix to meet the needs of your own organization.


In Part III of this Blog series we will be sharing information about EmergiProtect®, our mobile emergency management tool that puts solutions at your fingertips.  At Active Food Safety we have the expertise to help get you started with emergency planning, including the construction of a Master Planning Matrix  or, for those who might already have nascent emergency operating plans in place, to review those plans.

Mark Miklos, CP-FS

Partner, Active Food Safety