“From farm to table” is a wonderful thought, bringing to mind notions of freshness and heartiness. Still, most consumers understand that in an industrial and technological economy, their food makes a few stops along the way. The good news for them is that the processing and storage of foodstuffs today goes a long way to retain freshness. The challenge for cold storage facilities and other processing plants is to keep the food intact and safe from contamination. While preventive procedures are consistently effective, no protection yet devised is 100 percent foolproof. This is why an emergency action plan for food processing facilities is crucial for the public health and for a successful business.
Procedures directed by an emergency action plan for food processing facilities and cold storage facilities should contain no ambiguity. Each responsible party or individual must know precisely the task she must perform in the event of an emergency. Since food infections occur from scenarios like natural disasters, accidental contamination or intentional tainting, myriad agencies—from local health officials to federal law enforcement—must be contacted. Which ones and who initiates contact should be spelled out in a comprehensive EAP. In the same vein, personnel do well to know exactly how the internal hierarchy operates under emergency conditions.
Clearly, certain individuals will be designated to deal directly with an emergency. The plan should establish their qualifications and authority, thereby avoiding confusion when trouble strikes. The responsible employees will secure the facility; evacuate non-essential workers; make contact with first responders on the outside; and, among other things, protect and preserve the evidence of contamination. They will also perform a preliminary assessment of the nature and scope of the problem. Should changes in the roster of this crisis team be needed, the EAP must be updated immediately to reflect the revisions.
In a food emergency, the flow of foot traffic is of paramount importance. For one thing, a large-scale evacuation of personnel might be required. Optimal EAPs will map out the routes, accounting for populations and corridor dimensions. Quick access to human resource rosters is necessary to account for each individual. On the other hand, police, firefighters and/or healthcare workers who will enter the building should have the most direct route possible from entry point to contamination source. Emergency workers need to know where they are within the facility at all times. Furthermore, an easily comprehendible floor plan will quicken response times.
Depending on the emergency, vital data can be lost if electronic or paper information systems are disrupted. Cold storage facilities, for example, may record periodic temperatures and changes in contents. The use of automated storage and retrieval systems require feeding computers with regular data. Thus, a procedure to back up crucial knowledge is a fundamental component of an effective EAP. Cloud storage for electronic records, and offsite warehousing for files and records, are ways in which processors and warehouses preserve vital information.