Opinion: Disasters aren't the only havoc food processors need to prepare for
Disaster preparedness is crucial, but day-to-day events can cause havoc as well
We’ve been all too familiar with natural disasters lately.
A bad hurricane season, massive forest fires and an earthquake in Mexico have dominated the news, and I’m sure have caused most of you to think about whether your operation could withstand something like that. When disasters strike, it causes us to think about how it could affect us both personally and professionally, and that introspection is good for helping to shape our preparations for a calamity that could shut down production for a while.
But how often do you apply that introspection when there isn’t a disaster du jour? Being prepared for big events is great, but it’s often the little things that throw a wrench into the works.
Consider a random power outage. You most likely have a plan, but how often is it tested? How often is it evaluated for potential improvements? Is there a way to help shore up your readiness for it, or are you relying on a set of procedures that were put in place 20 years ago and have never really been put to the test since then?
There are any other number of potential developments that can throw your operation into chaos as well. A late or missing delivery. A breakdown. A particularly nasty flu bug that puts half of your staff out of commission for a couple days. Are you prepared for those things, or just the headline-grabbing events that are potentially more damaging, but a lot less likely to happen?
Or it could be a security issue. What do you do if a disgruntled employee or someone with a grudge walks in and starts shooting? How do you prepare for animal rights protestors deciding to hold a protest outside your meat processing facility?
I would imagine that a lot of you probably do have plans in place for all different kinds of events, and that’s good news. (If you don’t, you might want to get on that.) But plans are exactly that, and putting them into practice can be a challenge.
The solution, as it so often is, is communication. Not only do you need to make clear to the higher-ups why it’s important to be prepared for as many random events as possible, but you need to make sure that everyone knows exactly what to do, when to do it and how to do it when large- or small-scale disasters strike. The best way to do this is through training where you try to simulate these events as realistically as possible, but you can’t spend all your time and money training. So focus on the principles that can apply as broadly as possible, then work on the details of what you think the most likely threats are to your operation. No matter how much time you spend on training, make sure your employees understand what they need to know to handle a situation when it arises.
There are times when we are reminded just how powerful the forces of nature can be, and we all know that we need to be prepared for facing down those forces. But the small stuff happens far more often, and can be far more devastating when it does if you’re not prepared.