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5 Steps for Your Restaurant's Disaster Preparedness Plan editorial staff editorial staff

Be prepared for any scenario beforehand.

  • Emergency drills for employees are a critical factor in ensuring employees and visitors to the business are safely evacuated should a fire or other type of emergency occur
  • Ensure all employees are well versed in what to do in case of an emergency. For instance, make sure they are aware of all fire exits, fire alarms and escape routes should the exits be blocked.
  • Along with education and training, employees should experience unannounced emergency drills that include timing and possible risks that were missed during the drill.

The best way for a restaurant or other food establishment to effectively respond to a disaster is to be prepared beforehand. Prepping your establishment and workers about what to do in an emergency takes thought and considerable planning. Yet it can be crucial for the survival of your business and employees.

According to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, only 43% of businesses that are struck by a disaster will resume operations afterward. Of that 43%, 29% of those businesses fail within two years. You've worked hard to make your dream of becoming a restaurateur a reality. Don't let a flood or other type of disaster destroy it. Here are five points to cover when drafting a disaster preparedness plan for your restaurant:

1. Consider each type of disaster and an initial response to it.

Assess the risk your establishment faces for each type of major disaster. Whether the emergency involves a disruption of the water supply, a power outage, sewage backup, flood, fire, hurricane, earthquake, or other disaster, make plans for each emergency. 

For instance, during floods, the water supply becomes tainted. Thus, you may want to keep a supply of bottled water on hand or make arrangements with a water supplier to supply you. Floods also cut power to your establishment, which means you'll need backup refrigeration and freezing. You could rent a refrigerated truck in advance or have a backup generator for your fridge or freezer. Ask other restaurateurs how they would plan to handle the situation.

In all types of emergencies, use common sense and all available resources to ensure the safety of you, your co-workers and your business.

2. Review emergency plans with employees.

Discuss emergency plans for flood safety (How will you assist disabled persons? The elderly?) with all levels of workers within your organization. Cover the following areas with your employees:

  • Risk analysis
  • Which employees are necessary to maintain operations
  • Human resource responsibilities (e.g., payroll, employee records)
  • Facilities management
  • Cooperation and coordination with first responders (police, fire), public officials, vendors and suppliers, and customers
  • Do not announce emergency drills (this allows employees to have a realistic feel on how to react)

Also, schedule training for workers to review emergency procedures and run drills. You can rehearse during slow times or on a day off using employees as mock customers. It is also helpful to simulate different types of emergencies to see how well you can keep your operations going.

3. Establish communications procedures.

Determine how staff, suppliers and others will be contacted during an emergency. Floods can sever communication faster than you might think. Maintain a list of employee contact information as well as vendors and suppliers and government agencies to call in case of a disaster. Discuss contingency plans you would put in place to notify patrons of your situation.

4. Secure your location and critical operations data.

If possible, determine how you plan to secure your business's location. Further, make a provision for backups or preservation of critical business data, such as payroll records and other business documents. Whether these are on paper or a computer, you need a safe place to store that data in case of an emergency. Also, practice restoring your backups! You don't want them to fail at the worst time.

5. Create a disaster recovery plan.

Once a disaster is over, it's time to recover as quickly as possible. Here's how:

  • Stay in communication with emergency responders and authorities to maintain safety.

  • Protect your premises and assets by surveilling them, and contacting police or law enforcement if necessary.

  • Hire a crew for cleanup and restoration, if necessary, as well as scheduling inspections by the health department and other applicable agencies to ensure the safety of your premises after a disaster.

  • Arrange to have all equipment inspected to ensure it is clean and operational. If necessary, make plans for the replacement and disposal of all damaged or destroyed appliances, heating, ventilation and air conditioning units as well as other fixtures.

  • Restore any data backups you made and correct them.

  • Inspect your product(s) and reorder anything that was damaged or contaminated.

  • Notify customers and the community when your restaurant is open for business again. 

It is essential that management conduct performance reviews following an emergency drill. The performance reviews will not only give you an opportunity to make sure employees have a grasp on how to handle an emergency, but it will also allow you to know what areas require further education on employee and visitor safety should an emergency occur.  Hold regular, scheduled meetings to allow employees to ask questions and make recommendations-before and after an emergency drill occurs.

Image Credit: CherriesJD / Getty Images editorial staff editorial staff Member
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