Do You Have a Natural Disaster Plan?
Updated: Nov 22, 2018
You have a Food Safety Plan as required by FSMA’s Preventive Controls rule; you are developing a Food Defense Plan as will soon be due for the Intentional Adulteration rule. But do you have an emergency preparedness plan in place should you be impacted by the natural disasters that are such a part of today’s world?
While the threat to one’s home and family is legitimately of utmost concern in a natural disaster, the recent crop, livestock, and structural loss caused by hurricanes Michael and Florence profoundly illustrate the massive impact a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, flood or other natural disaster can have on a business. And just as it is important to have a plan in place for your home and family both pre- and post-catastrophe, so, too, is it critical to have such plans for your food production business.
This not only means taking steps to protect the product and facility from loss – as much as possible, it means testing and validating the safety of the food and facility post-disaster. Many of steps to do so are similar to those you’d take at your home – but on a much larger scale. There also will be variation depending on the type of disaster, proximity, and length of warning. For example, a hurricane is generally foretold in advance (though its path can change), while tornadoes and earthquakes are much more sudden. And, while all can leave behind massive destruction, it is long-term power outages and the hurricane’s residual waters that can cause the most food safety concern.
Even if your facility is not in the path of Mother Nature’s vengeance, your production can be affected if your suppliers are. Not only can a power outage put temperature-sensitive ingredients or finished product at risk, but, as explained in an FSN article, “The toxic composition of floodwater is such a serious food safety hazard that federal law prohibits the sale, distribution or donation of any produce or other food crops from fields that are flooded. Special inspections are required before such crops can even be used for animal feed.”
Thus, disaster planning needs to take into consideration both prevention and recovery. And, just as with your food safety and defense plans, it should take a risk-based approach, focused on your geographic likelihood and potential hazards. A few areas to consider are:
How direct a hit could your facility’s structure withstand? What can you do to increase its stability?
Do you have a system to communicate with your employees, both pre- and post-disaster?
Do you have back-up power, and gauges in climate-controlled areas which log variation?
Are your data systems backed up off-site? What other critical functions need to be protected?
How would you clean up and test your product and food-contact surfaces post-disaster to ensure its safety?
What supplier requirements and testing do you have in place? Do you have alternative suppliers should yours be flooded or destroyed?
Does your insurance cover natural disasters; is such coverage available in your area?
How much of your livestock, product, ingredient, etc., could you transport to a safe location should it be necessary?
These are just a few of the things to consider to get you thinking about the risks of natural disasters and protecting your business and its consumers should the worst occur. We all like to think, “It won’t happen to me.” But, according to the UN office for disaster risk reduction, there has been a sharp increase in the number of climate-related events, and that increase has caused a 151% increase in resource and asset loss in the last 20 years over that of the previous two decades.
As natural disasters increase, so, too, do the chances that your business could be impacted. Are you prepared?
About The Acheson Group (TAG)
Led by former FDA Associate Commissioner for Foods Dr. David Acheson, TAG is a food safety consulting group that provides guidance and expertise worldwide for companies throughout the food supply chain. With in-depth industry knowledge combined with real-world experience, TAG's team of food safety experts help companies more effectively mitigate risk, improve operational efficiencies, and ensure regulatory and standards compliance. Learn more at: www.achesongroup.com