Regardless of how active or inactive a particular hurricane season is predicted to be, it only takes one storm to significantly damage your food plant or cold storage warehouse.
Here are some basic steps to prepare your facility for a hurricane:
1. Establish an evacuation plan and route
Designate emergency exits and the pathways employees should take in the event of an emergency. Also, identify leaders with the authority and skills to direct others during an emergency. Make sure that emergency equipment is accessible along evacuation routes and can be located in the dark, if necessary.
2. Create ammonia release prevention plan
Ammonia systems are important to secure in the event of a hurricane, as an ammonia release could be very harmful. One standard operating procedure may include pumping down the system and ensuring it is secured. Develop a plan for who is responsible for your ammonia system and what they should do in case of an emergency.
3. Determine alternate power and communications
Do you have a backup generator? How will you communicate with employees if power is lost? Is there a “chain of command” for who will notify whom in the event of an emergency? What about communication with facility staff after the storm has passed? Review these systems in advance and ensure all preventive maintenance is performed before a hurricane is headed your way.
4. Review data backup plan
Is your computer and network data backed up to a server? Do you have a cloud backup service? Double check these systems now to ensure no critical information is lost in the event of a power surge and/or computer loss.
5. Protect key areas from potential water damage
Water intrusion and flooding is common with hurricanes, especially if a facility’s roof is compromised. Take precautions to protect important areas from potential water damage, including raising any critical materials or equipment off the ground.
6. Ensure roof-mounted equipment is secured
Hurricane-force winds can cause serious damage, and a few loose screws can turn roof-mounted equipment into a deadly projectile. Review the equipment on your facility’s exterior and ensure any and all units are securely fastened.
7. Prepare list of disaster recovery vendors
Research, vet and compile a list of vendors and contractors you can turn to for disaster recovery services. (Include a few options, since many of these companies will be in high demand in the wake of a storm.) Also, don’t wait until after the storm to do this — prepare a list now. If your facility is significantly affected by a hurricane, you don’t want to be scrambling to find help in the aftermath.