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May Cartoon: Writing an Emergency Response Plan
Emergency response plan monster

Having a plan in case of an emergency is crucial in keeping you, your employees, and customers safe. When might you use an emergency plan? On occasion, your establishment might have a flood, fire, or sewage backup. Depending on your location, you may also experience natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. You should also have a plan in case of a foodborne illness outbreak.

How do I start?

It can be difficult to know what to plan for, especially if you are new to the area. As you are creating and preparing your plan, consider these six guidelines:

  1. Assess possible emergencies
  2. Keep it simple
  3. Manage the customers
  4. Manage communication
  5. Manage the food
  6. Manage water

It’s a good idea to keep an extra supply of bottled water. Also, consider creating an “emergency menu" with items that require a minimal amount of water. If any item on your emergency menu uses ingredients that aren’t part of your usual fare, keep some on hand. This could be helpful if your employees or customers need to shelter in place.

In the event phone communication lines are down, you might want to have a radio or another similar device as a backup. This way, you can receive updates on the emergency as time progresses. Flashlights, foil blankets, and other equipment could also be useful.

Make sure your plan includes instructions to close the establishment and contact the local regulatory authority (usually a health department) if imminent health hazards occur, such as extended power outages or flooding. Your regulatory authority can provide guidance on what to do or how to handle the situation.

The plan is made! Now what?

Keep your plan up to date and train employees (both old and new) often. Help your employees understand which steps should be taken to ensure the plan will run smoothly. Re-evaluate your plan often and decide if there are new emergencies or natural disasters you should plan for.

It can be helpful to run a drill with your employees to see if there are gaps in the plan and help employees practice in the event of an emergency. Emergency plans should be stored where they are easy to access and all staff know where to locate them. Usually, these plans are kept in a clearly labeled binder to keep pages together and well-organized.

Also, review your emergency supplies regularly (monthly, quarterly, annually—whatever time frame makes the most sense to you). This can help you see when you need to stock up, replace old ingredients, etc. If you cannot afford to buy everything all at once, make a list of supplies you need and start accumulating them little by little.

Being prepared in an emergency will go a long way toward helping you, your customers, and employees stay safe. If you have specific questions or are looking for guidance, your local regulatory authority or other businesses in the area can help.

For more information and tips about emergency preparedness, visit

— Janilyn Hutchings

Download/print cartoon: Emergency Response Plan Monster

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