Steritech’s free Public Health Information Brief gives you pointers and answers your frequently asked questions regarding how to keep food and facilities safe before and following a hurricane.
OTHER STORM-RELATED RESOURCES:
Hurricane season is a period of several months, particularly warm weather months, during the year when conditions are conducive for the development of damaging hurricanes in regions in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, as well as the Caribbean Sea. In the Pacific, hurricane season runs from May 15 through November 30, while the Atlantic season is slightly shorter, June 1 to November 30.
Hurricanes can create powerful winds, excessive rains, and storm surges. These natural phenomena can damage structures, cause power outages, create flooding situations, as well as other storm-related issues.
While the following tips can help you prepare for and recover from a hurricane, they are not a replacement for a tested crisis management plan.
A clearly outlined communications plan will keep you and your team functioning as a unit during a hurricane threat. Ensure that you have a contingency plan in place for deciding when to close or offer alternate operations (e.g., limited menu or changed shift schedule) and that all employees know their roles.
Emergency numbers and contact lists should be available for employees and should include:
Emergency preparedness supplies are a good idea to have on hand at all times. Hurricanes may necessitate further emergency supplies. Consider having the following items on hand if a hurricane is forecasted.
In the event that your facility is advised to close, it is important that you, your employees and guests follow evacuation orders to protect your safety. A few additional steps may help you protect your facility and your food in the event of significant storm damage.
One of the biggest dangers in a hurricane is the loss of power and how it affects food storage. Many Time/Temperature Control for Safety Foods (TCS Foods) may need to be destroyed if they go out of temperature range. Temperature abused foods can grow harmful bacteria and spoil, putting people at risk for foodborne illness.
Flood water has the potential to significantly damage facilities, but it is also a significant food safety hazard. All flood water has the potential to be contaminated with sewage and agricultural waste. Therefore, if your facility has had flooding, even minor, take the following precautions:
Before performing any flood clean up or entering an area where flood waters are still present, wear protective gear such as boots and coveralls. Avoid skin contact with the water.
All of the following should be discarded if they have come into contact with flood waters:
Fabric furnishings and carpets must be discarded. Some equipment may need to be discarded if it cannot be disinfected or if it is not functional.
Affected walls, floors, and surfaces must be washed, rinsed and disinfected. Use a disinfectant that is effective against norovirus or prepared a 1000 - 5000 ppm chlorine solution by adding 1/8 cup to 1 cup of concentrated household bleach (8.25%) to 1 gallon of potable water. It is essential to remember to use unscented bleach, wear gloves and make fresh bleach solutions daily. Metal, glass or ceramic pans, dishes, or utensils that contact flood waters must be washed, rinsed and disinfected before use. Food contact surfaces must be rinsed with potable water following the use of this disinfecting solution.
Canned goods that have come into contact with flood water and are not damaged, dented, or rusted may be salvaged. Remove labels, and relabel cans with the contents and expiration date using a permanent marker. After washing and rinsing, immerse cans for 15 minutes into the disinfecting solution as described above. Allow to drain and air dry.
A clean water supply and sufficient plumbing are necessary for any food operation to conduct business. While your local health authority will have the most up-to-date information, the following steps may be necessary if water service is interrupted or becomes contaminated.
Flooding, rains and winds associated with hurricanes can also create pest issues. Many pests are attracted to moisture and may gravitate to waterlogged facilities following a storm. Even minor flooding may displace pests and create pest issues unseen before a storm. Finally, standing water left behind by storms can attract pests, such as mosquitoes, that are potentially dangerous to people.
Following a storm, assess the following areas of concern:
Mosquito-borne illnesses are a very real threat in the weeks following hurricanes, as the presence of standing water increases mosquito breeding potential. West Nile virus is of particular concern in the United States, but other mosquito-borne illnesses are also of concern. If your area has been impacted by a hurricane, consider mosquito treatments by a professional pest management provider. To protect yourself, your employees, and your family against mosquitoes, follow these six steps:
You may find additional helpful information regarding hurricane preparation and recovery on these government websites:
Steritech can assist you with crisis management planning or post-hurricane clean up and recovery, as well as any questions you may have about food safety following a storm. Steritech’s Customer Care Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800.868.0089 to assist you with any of your needs.