It seems that no matter when we prepare the next installment of our Emergency Preparation & Response series or at what intervals a volume of the series follows the one that proceeded it, there is a named storm making headlines and threatening the United States. Now it is Hurricane Zeta (there have been so many that NOAA has had to resort to the Greek alphabet to supplement the conventional naming protocol). It is therefore fitting that as we gear up for yet another storm we should review how to close and secure your food establishment in preparation for an evacuation. A smart and efficient closing will make reopening that much smoother. Closing a unit in the face of a storm should never be a random event.
To aid you in understanding what to do and how to do it we recommend creating a Unit Closing Checklist. Assignments and responsibilities can be subdivided into a few key categories such as food, equipment, the building itself, the office, and some general considerations. What follows is a partial list for each category to give you the idea. Now let us look at them in turn.
- Pull all perishable food off the floor (out of the front of the house) and store it in the freezer or walk-in cooler. Store all non-perishable food in your commissary.
- IMPORTANT! Never re-freeze meat that has been previously thawed.
- Make a line-check of food temperatures and note the day and time.
- If you have a sandwich board or “make station,” cover all the inserts with double layers of cling wrap and lids.
- Remember to close the top of the workstation if it is installed with a lid.
- Empty and clean your OJ, lemonade and similar equipment. Empty and clean coffee makers and coffee pots.
- Empty and clean all front of the house refrigerators, refrigerated food drawers, pie cases and all food storage areas.
- Complete a commissary audit of all your food at shut down.
- This step is necessary for efficient post-storm product management.
- Confer with vendors, determine if you need to place a food order in advance and verify a post-storm delivery schedule.
- Wash all utensils and equipment like dishes, pots, pans, cups and glasses, silverware, etc. Leave nothing dirty in your dish pit or in ware washing equipment.
- When stowing cleaned utensils and equipment be mindful to avoid high areas where items may fall.
- Leave small equipment in place as this will aid in reopening sooner. Examples include toasters, tea urns, sauce caddies, coffee machines, silverware bins, napkin holders and other miscellaneous equipment according to the nature of your business.
- Leave your cash register drawers open.
- Turn off battery-backups on equipment where it may be installed to avoid drain so they will still have ample charge when tuned back on after the storm.
- Tape a “We plan to open as soon as possible after the storm” sign to the inside of your front door, facing out.
- Pull your blinds or shades up all the way to the top.
- Secure any loose objects located around the outside of your facility or store them inside.
- Close and lock all exterior doors and windows.
- Shut off lights. Ensure emergency lights are operational.
- Only turn off circuit breakers for HVAC.
- All employees should be clocked out before closing the facility.
- Close out your final day and take deposit to the bank.
- Learn when the bank intends to close and reopen.
- Complete a cash audit and secure a change fund in your safe.
- Store at least 50 copies of your “limited menu” in the office.
- Make and store extra copies of your commissary audit worksheets and floor count/issue worksheets (these may be called something different in your establishment but are used to govern the process of moving food to the floor and accounting for food cost.)
- Call your corporate IT department for guidance on turning off and safely storing your computers.
- Leave the office and commissary doors open.
- Inform your supervisor or your corporate office that you have closed and that the facility is evacuated. Take the key and if there is a duplicate, agree in advance with upline management where it will be placed in the office.
- Verify where your employees are going and how to get in touch with them. Have extra copies of your employee contact list for both active and inactive employees.
- Get commitments for re-staffing.
- Have updated contact numbers for fire, police, water, power, gas, trash service, and pest management.
- Ensure your Emergency Operating Plan is complete. Leave a copy in the office and take a copy with you.
- Ensure you and all your managers have downloaded a free copy of EmergiProtect© to your smart devices.
- Assemble several kits:
- A kit containing emergency candles or LED battery lights, matches or a lighter, at least two flashlights with extra batteries, 3-compartment sink stoppers, tongs, foil bags, and zip lock plastic bags.
- A Food safety management kit including ample supplies of chlorine or Quats sanitizer and sanitizer test strips, hair restraints, single use gloves, calibrated thermometers, face masks, hand soap, disposable paper towels and hand sanitizer.
- A fully stocked first aid kit.
- A fully stocked bodily fluid clean up kit.
As with so many of the suggestions and strategies contained throughout this blog series, we are indebted to Waffle House, Inc., a company with a well-deserved and long-standing reputation for hurricane response. 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.
We have now reached the end of our series on Emergency Preparation & Response and we hope it has been of value to you.
Let us Review…
- In Part I of our series we introduced the concept of emergency planning, outlined a few first steps and provided resources, discussed the importance of building relationships with the regulatory authority and promoted the writing of an approved emergency operating plan. We also discussed the safety and security of your staff.
- In Part II we took a closer look at the concept of a master planning matrix and provided the basic elements to get you started, including time horizons and responsible parties or departments.
- In Part III we introduced EmergiProtect ©, our free, at-your-fingertips digital solution for responding to critical emergency situations quickly and properly to protect public health and prevent foodborne illness outbreak.
- In Part IV we outlined what to do in the event of a gas service interruption.
- Finally, here in Part V we shared top-line items of concern when closing your food facility in preparation for an evacuation order. Closing correctly on the front end facilitates a smooth reopening on the back end and should not be left to haphazard chance.
It has been a privilege to share this series with you. At Active Food Safety we have the expertise to help you on your emergency planning journey whether you are just beginning or already have robust plans in need of review.
Mark Miklos, CP-FS
Partner, Active Food Safety