Kalis and Blake: Other types of local first responders that conduct emergency preparedness exercises may be willing to include foodservice facilities. Collaborative emergency preparedness training and exercising before an emergency are critical as these activities define roles, introduce the participants to each other and identify areas needing improvement before an actual event. Finally, getting the necessary time commitment from community partners and stakeholders to prepare for potential food and water safety issues during emergencies and disasters can be quite challenging, especially if staff members are limited and competing priorities exist within a particular agency, organization, company or institution. Kalis and Blake: Following a natural disaster, a key thing to consider is addressing food safety to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Preparedness can be accomplished through developing standing contracts with companies or organizations that perform these services or through mutual-aid agreements prior to the event.
Kalis and Blake: One shining example of a mechanism that has worked very well for emergency response surge capacity is the use of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) to increase the capacity of responders to address issues related to food safety.
Through EMAC, additional assistance can be quickly forthcoming, such as equipment, supplies and personnel, to assist a community with reopening retail food establishments and ensuring food safety to protect public health. Joe Corby is the executive director for the Association of Food and Drug Officials following a 37-year career with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Division of Food Safety and Inspection. For more information regarding local public health emergency preparedness, please contact Pete Baril, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, at (906) 482-7382 x 155. Also, mutual-aid agreements can be put into place to help define roles and responsibilities and provide assistance during any emergency event that may affect food and water safety. Plans should be done at the facility level with input from partners and regulators alike that factor in the needed elements for safe operation after a disaster. During emergency response, state and local authorities perform many critical functions, such as conducting food safety assessments and inspections, testing drinking water supplies and controlling disease-causing vectors. CDC is collaborating with CDP to develop an EHTER operations-level course to allow environmental health professionals to use and practice response and recovery skills, including those related to food safety, in a disaster setting.

For food safety professionals in the restaurant industry, this training provides information on investigating a foodborne illness outbreak from an environmental health perspective and on applying FDA guidelines for sanitation, food preparation and storage used in the foodservices industry.
EHS-Net studies and associated plain-language summaries provide valuable information about important restaurant food safety practices. The system will provide food safety program officials with information to help prevent foodborne illness outbreaks associated with restaurants and other food venues.
The consistent availability of utilities such as electricity, natural gas, potable water and sewage containment is critical for ensuring that food is properly stored, prepared and disposed of in a safe manner. The interdependencies of various sectors are critical to ensure a safe and secure food supply. Food processors and suppliers may wish to make advance arrangements to provide necessary food, water and supplies so that establishments can safely reopen. In addition to EMAC, other mutual-aid agreements can be created to provide assistance and support related to food and water safety. Food safety risks are mainly linked to unsafe food storage, handling, preparation and ill employees. Some of the common areas are backup power, alternate water supply, innovative (and approved) methods of liquid and solid waste disposal and volunteer training on food safety.
For example, FEMA ESF [Emergency Support Function] #11 addresses food safety during a disaster and the agencies involved. This information can be very useful for the development of effective restaurant food safety interventions. Those responsible for food access and distribution will likely wish to follow existing food safety guidance regarding the donated items (or develop their own). Food safety concerns may many times be addressed with Temperature Control for Safety [TCS] foods, although the freezing of canned foods that may occur during a power outage or blizzard in colder climates places stress on the can because of the swelling that may occur.

Plan participants included the NJ Food Council, Rutgers University, NJ DOH, NJ Department of Agriculture, NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, NJ State Police, Community Food Banks, FDA and other public and private sector players. Mississippi has developed an Emergency Food Safety Inspection Form to clear a food facility for reopening without a pre-opening inspection.
Also, some education on the part of food safety professionals, namely local health departments, needs to be done notifying the public about donating foods after a disaster.
Availability of the workforce is critical to take into consideration during the planning and preparation for food safety prior to the event. After the April 2011 tornadoes in Alabama, there were many success stories of foodservice establishments using approved hauled water, portable toilets and generator power to serve food safely and efficiently until normal operations could be re-established.
As program manager of the Food Safety Program at the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH), I had paid close attention to the aftermath of Katrina, including the news headlines of food and water shortages, and the efforts to move food into the affected regions. If an outside salvage operation is utilized to conduct salvaging, they should be licensed or approved by a regulatory agency; if the establishment will be salvaging themselves, then guidance should be provided to them to conduct this in a safe and orderly fashion. Limited quantities of potable water may initially impact a facility’s ability to reopen and operate safely. All too often, there are areas of food safety that are completely foreign to the novice food handler, and some are risk factors that must be taught in order to be fully understood.
Poor sanitation, including lack of safe water and toilet facilities, can compound these risks. Private organizations do a fine job of day-to-day food safety training, but after a disaster, we do not have the time to conduct such, so JIT food safety training is always needed.

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List of all natural disasters in 2012


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