But Karen gave us at the Louisiana Restaurant Association a great practice run for our emergency operations plan. The team met on Friday morning before an anticipated weekend landfall, reviewed the plan and the weather projections and determined that this would likely be a less than eventful storm for the New Orleans area. However, before the staff departed for the weekend, the building was secured, the flag taken from the pole and the contact lists and methods of communication were updated.
Beyond the emergency plan for you and your team, there’s often a community need that restaurants can fill. When hurricanes, tornados, snowstorms or other natural disasters occur, restaurants can help bring a sense of normalcy to their communities. Establishing a disaster communication plan establishes you as a good corporate citizen and secures brand equity.
Such a plan helped Waffle House earn a 2012 National Restaurant Association Operator Innovations Award. The plan, “Keeping Food Safe during Natural Disasters & Proactive Outreach to States,” is part of the company’s “Always Open” culture across its 1,700 locations in 25 states. Waffle House created relationships with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
After a storm, FEMA surveys the community using a “Waffle House index” as a way to measure devastated areas. Stores closed because of the storm are designated ground zero or red alert; those with a limited menu because of power and food shortages are considered yellow alert; and those with minimal damage and the ability to operate fully are designated green alert.
"After a storm, FEMA surveys the community using a “Waffle House index”
as a way to measure devastated areas."
Here are five tips to help you plan ahead:
· Connect with public officials when developing your disaster-preparedness plan. Waffle House executives reached out to regulatory and safety agencies in hurricane-prone states, including municipal and county officials.· Create a planning matrix. Waffle House created logistical tactics for various scenarios, such as three to five days before a hurricane, 48 hours out, 24 hours out and after landfall. For each stage, the plan identified store managers, operations executives, food safety/security teams and other stakeholders.
· Create and distribute practical toolkits. Each Waffle House store manager receives a “storm playbook” that includes lessons learned and best practices, a unit-opening checklist, FDA food safety guidelines for re-opening after a storm, a service interruption and emergency checklist, and more.
· Establish procedures for before and after the disaster. When a hurricane is imminent, Waffle House executives contact public health and safety officials in areas likely to be affected to resolve access issues. After a storm makes landfall, store managers must be available at all times to ensure food safety compliance and work with health inspectors before reopening.
· Create a sound risk-based protocol. Your protocol should include preparation and mobilization tactics. Remember: Controlling risk should be your priority.
For more best practices for your operation, visit the National Restaurant Association's Manage My Restaurant Online Resource Center here.