“Planning without action is futile, action without planning is fatal.”
Run of the mill health care kitchen crises are nothing new. We deal with them almost daily. Major disasters, such as last year’s Hurricane Irma, is thankfully not commonplace. However, there were many lessons learned from Irma which are worth sharing.
In food service, three categories are essential:
- Train staff to handle any situation that arises including how to proceed without utilities, personnel or in an evacuation.
- Have reserves of non-perishable food, paper supplies and water to meet nutrition needs.
- Maintain safe food handling, hygiene and service standards.
Before the storm
Before the storm, it’s important to be prepared and plan ahead. Have a supply of food and water for three-to-seven days. Your food distributor may not be able to meet last minute requests as resources are depleted quickly when demand exceeds supply. Last year every supplier was short on water due to Hurricane Harvey preceding Irma.
Confirm with local County Emergency Management Service for specific requirements that may supersede the Agency for Health Care Administration’s (AHCA) rule, i.e., Pinellas County requires assisted living facilities to have a seven-day supply of non-perishable food and water versus AHCA’s three-day supply of non-perishable food. *AHCA and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) require long term care facilities to have a seven-day supply of non-perishable food, water and supplies.
There is no rule that stipulates the amount of water to keep on hand. AHCA’s recommendation is “one gallon of potable water per day would exceed most individuals’ water requirement for adequate hydration. When calculating water amounts for emergency situations, centers should also consider water needs in context of the requirements set forth in the federal CMS Emergency Preparedness
Rule and the Florida CEMP for nursing homes.”
Collapsible water containers (bladders) can be used and must be food grade, made of a sturdy plastic with spout and ease of portability.
Plan a seven-day emergency menu using non-perishable food items. Evaluate use of dehydrated emergency menu products. These products have a 10-year shelf life, are shelf stable, easily reconstituted with water, take up minimal storage space and are easily transported in an evacuation. Purchase ready-made pureed food (canned and shelf stable), thickened liquids and tube feedings/supplements.
Know what equipment is on emergency power, test prior to and keep a list for future reference.
Start filling water bladders ahead of time. Last year it took one long term care center six hours to fill 150, five-gallon bladders or 30 minutes per container.
Bag and store extra ice, and freeze pans of ice to use in coolers. Fill large clean and lined garbage cans with beverages (staff) and water for cooking.
Consider having on hand gas propane chargers and portable cooking burners, hand mixers & grinders, hand sanitizer, lighters, matches, sanitizer wipes, markers, tape and water tablets. Purchase fans & portable lighting (flashlights, lanterns, and battery-operated lights for coolers and kitchen).
Consider the need for rental trucks for transporting food.
Keep on hand documentation with residents’ names, diets and daily food needs, along with a list of employees, cell phone numbers and email addresses.
In regard to your center’s plan for evacuation, establish procedures for distributing and transporting food, water and supplies. Determine the staffing needed for the evacuation site. Know the power supply, space, cooking equipment and storage equipment. Establish procedures for meal preparation and distribution of food and beverages at the evacuation site.
During the storm
When your center is in the midst of the storm, remember to use perishable foods first. Have a plan for hydration pass and a checklist, which includes identifying those residents at high risk, those who need thickened liquids or have a poor appetite and how to manage intake.
Determine what you will use for fluid sources, such as ice cream, popsicles, sherbet, fruit ice, juice milk, water, liquid supplements, ice chips, soda, sports drinks or fruit beverages.
Have a process to distribute food if elevator goes down, and remember to ration food supplies to have enough to last the duration of the storm and afterwards.
After the storm
Once the storm has passed, be prepared for water boil alerts and plan to buy ice from an outside source. Consider that food distributors may not be able to immediately resume start up after a hurricane due to product shortages and other unforeseen events, i.e., road impassibility, power outages, gas shortage, etc.