Restaurant owners have much to be cognizant of before, during, and after hours of operation, including weather patterns that have the potential to cause severe damage to restaurant structures.
During the early spring season, temperatures rise and snow melts away, leaving saturated ground. This year, rainfall is at an all-time high in many areas, increasing the likelihood of flooding. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a warning in late March that nearly two-thirds of the U.S. is at an increased risk for "historic" flooding until May.
Large areas can flood in a short time, interrupting power and damaging property. For restaurants, this brings a number of complexities. The resulting floodwater may damage the structure itself, records, equipment, and food inventory. In addition to the physical risks that flood waters present to human life, they can also carry dangerous pathogens, sewage, and chemicals that can contaminate surfaces and foods.
As the potential for flooding increases during this time of the year, it is paramount to keep processes and procedures in mind to be prepared should flooding occur.
There are many procedures to follow in the event your restaurant takes on large masses of water. First and foremost is the safety of people. Always follow the direction of local authorities. Be prepared to close or evacuate the restaurant.
If you have time to prepare ahead of flooding, the following actions can help you protect people and your restaurant:
In any flooding situation, all food preparation should be halted. All personnel should vacate the premises to prevent dangerous pathogens from flood waters from spreading to the skin or clothing.
If your operations partially flood or flooding causes a backup of sewage, it's imperative to cease operations and close the facility until repairs are made and the facility has been cleaned and disinfected. Until that time, you will want to barricade the flooded area to prevent any guests or employees from being exposed to flood waters or sewage, in the instance others are already in the space.
Call a plumber or other service to repair any isolated flooding from broken pipes, etc. It may also be necessary to “snake” sewer lines to remove debris and obstructions. Be sure to discontinue all food preparation, use of toilets, sinks, or equipment during this time.
AFTER A FLOOD
Clean up from flooding damage is an extensive task that may take involvement from staff members and outside professional remediation services. It is critical that no one enter a space that has been flooded without confirmation that there are no electrical shock hazards, gas leaks, or debris that could harm people.
Anyone tasked with cleaning up an area impacted by floodwaters or sewage backup must wear personal protective equipment—eye protection, gloves, disposable aprons, rubber boots, etc.
When tackling restaurant clean up, floors, walls, ceilings, and all food preparation areas and equipment, including food contact surfaces must be cleaned and disinfected. This includes things such as utensils, pots and pans, ice machines, countertops, refrigeration unit interior/exterior, etc. Any carpeting or fabric items touched by flood waters need to be removed and discarded.
For cleaning and disinfecting floors, walls, ceilings, and food contact surfaces, first wash surfaces with a detergent and rinse. Next, it's important to use a commercial disinfectant with effectiveness against norovirus or make a chlorine bleach solution to disinfect affected areas. From there, prepare a 1000—5000 ppm chlorine solution by adding 1/8 cup to 1 cup concentrated household bleach (8.25%) to 1 gallon of potable water. It is essential to remember to use unscented bleach, wear gloves, and make fresh bleach solutions daily.
Any food contact surfaces that are disinfected must be rinsed with clean, potable water. You must never allow employees performing clean up on affected areas of the facility to walk into other areas of the facility without washing hands and removing footwear and protective clothing.
After the space has been disinfected, it is also important to discard any mop heads or absorbent materials used to clean flooded areas.
Once initial procedures have been followed and the space has been disinfected, it's time to begin planning your re-opening. Though it may seem difficult now, it's important to keep these re-opening procedures for food products and service items in mind as you prepare. The following food items MUST be discarded prior to re-opening:
While these procedures for potential flooding situations prepare teams and provide guidance for reopening and recovery operations, local health authority instructions always take precedence over these guidelines.
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