When it comes to managing food safety and quality, it is an achievable goal when there is an established process flow. Our primordial comfort zones lay with not just familiarity but repetition as well. After all, it’s how we essentially learn—through observations, repetition, and trial and error.
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When a variable in an established process changes, it not only affects the end product, but the safety and quality management systems that encompass it as well.
For example, during a natural calamity, such as a flood or a hurricane, access to clean running water gets disrupted. Logistics comes to a standstill and other imminent hazards surface, such as injuries, contamination, loss of inventory and/or property, etc. When it comes to food safety and quality management, preparing for an emergency is as important as controlling identified hazards.
Let’s take a look at some of the key areas to consider during an emergency for catering, retail, and manufacturing operations. This post outlines a generic approach and is not an all inclusive guide.
Risk Analysis and Planning
What is the likelihood of a natural disaster occurring? Is the area prone to earthquakes, flash floods, droughts, etc.? Planning involves analyzing not just present data and predictive models, but making notes from past incidents too, even if it happened a little over half a decade ago. Learn from other food businesses to stay proactive and have the “why” explained to the emergency response team members. When the “why” is known, the “what, how, and when” become easier to address.
Setting Up Cross-Functional Teams
Diversity in functionality within the emergency response team ensures multiple areas are taken care of simultaneously in the midst of a crisis, such as logistics, communication, supply chain, cold chain, facilities, inventory, maintenance, traceability, and employee/customer relations.
It is easier to incorporate backup storage units before the completion of construction of an establishment rather than after it. If the facility is in an area that’s prone to floods, consider including a separate storage area for emergencies only that’s located at a higher level than the primary food storage area(s). This same principle applies to warehouses as well. For some establishments, a refrigerated truck would be a good investment to transfer food and beverage stocks in case refrigeration or freezer units break down. That being said, it would also make sense to rely on a good backup generator and run routine maintenance checks.
Before-During-After Incident Responses Development
Planning and preparation go hand in hand. When it comes to responding to an emergency, the response team would be better equipped to handle various situations as they arise based on the category it falls into. The emergency response after a flood has occurred would be quite different to the approach before it occurs. Detailing response steps involved through on the job training as well as rehearsing them with the team through routine drills significantly diminishes confusion during an emergency.
What are some of the best practices that you have experienced or have in place for your emergency response systems? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.