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Before disaster strikes.

When it comes to dealing with emergencies, most businessmen should remember the Boy Scouts' motto, "Be Prepared." Yet most do not develop plans for confronting and dealing with an emergency, be it a natural disaster, a fire or a crime like product contamination.

And without proper preparation and planning, some supermarketers, particularly small owners, might find one disaster leading to another--the loss of their business.

To help chain executives, independent owners, store managers and others be prepared--or be better prepared--the Food Marketing Institute has published a manual entitled "Pre-Emergency Planning and Disaster Recovery." The 379-page manual, written by Charles I. Miller, president of Loss Prevention Systems of Cincinnati, goes into meticulous detail about what emergencies can befall supermarkets and distribution centers and how a company can use pre-emergency planning to reduce the effects of a disaster.

The following samples on how to deal with disasters are from the FMI manual. Selecting a Crisis Management Team

Since every business will probably face some form of crisis once in its business lifetime. it is wise for chains and independents alike to form a crisis management team to deal with potential problems. The team should be composed of employees from various areas of the corporation or stores, so that different skills and concerns can be combined to plain for, discuss and deal with the crisis at hand or being planned for. Companies with multiple divisions and store sites should also appoint crisis management teams at division offices and store locations as most emergencies happen on a local level. Having such teams will help the people who must directly confront the problem get as well prepared for it as those higher ranking employees in the corporate structure.

The manual proposes different ways for structuring the crisis management team in multi-division chains, medium-size chains and small chains or independents.

In large chains, there should be a policy team, a crisis management team and a liaison team. The policy team determines what corporate policies should be for dealing with crisis situations, answering questions concerning the authority the crisis management team will have and determining the amount of time and money that will be allocated to train the team. In the busy world of supermarketing, most executives do not set aside time to plan for crises unless given some prodding from top management. Determinations also have to be made as to how, in an emergency, the liaison team will pass orders from headquarters to the store or warehouse stricken by the crisis.

In a medium-sized company, members of the crisis management team also establish policy. These policies should be set before any crisis occurs, in case a principal of the firm cannot be consulted at the necessary time. Miller recommends that the top-ranking executive not be placed in charge of the crisis management team--rather that responsibility should be delegated to a trusted manager.

Small chains and independents are the least likely to establish a crisis management team even though their size could make the effects of an emergency more serious. (Whereas Safeway can easily recoup the loss imposed by a fire at one store, a two-store independent would probably find the blow severe enough to put him out of business.) The independent grocer, accustomed to operating as a free spirit, must realize that such a style of decision making is the worst way to handle a crisis.

Members of the crisis management team should be perceptive, intuitive, skilled in one or more functional areas and agreeable to accept additional responsibilities. They must also be calm in stressful situations. The goal of a crisis management team is to analyze the probability of certain events occurring, define the problems such events would present, establish actions and measures to reduce the risk, and protect company assets, employees and customers if the events do occur. Preparing for Natural Disasters

Natural disasters strike more frequently than one would probably think. The Federal Emergency Management Agency reports that in 1983, President Reagan declared 21 major disasters in which the total dollar losses incurred topped $1 billion. More than 60,000 families were victimized by weather emergencies and thousands of businesses were also hit in disasters ranging from severe storms and floods in Louisiana, to mud slides in California, to an earthquake in Idaho.

The most likely natural disaster to befall supermarkets in the Plains states, Midwest and Southeast is a tornado, the most deadly of all windstorms. Bringing winds of up to 300 miles an hour, tornadoes are unbelievably destructive. In the 1960s and 1970s, approximately 650 warnings issued by the National Weather Service. (A watch means that a tornado could occur, while a warning means that one has already been sighted.) After a tornado is reported, a spotter network can help plot the path it is traveling.

A spotter network consists of an organized group positioned in different sections of a community. A supermarket chain or an organization of independents with stores surrounding a small city could easily set up a spotter network between locations. Since tornadoes usually travel from the southwest toward the northeast, a spotter seeing a tornado could call stores located to the north and east of the funnel cloud.

While it is impossible to be totally protected from a tornado, certain precautions will lessen the possibility of injury. Tornadoes differ from windstorms and hurricanes in that damage is caused by the change in pressure caused by the tornado and by objects that are swirling around within it, rather than entirely from the force of the wind.

To avoid serious injury, always move away from windows, which will undoubtedly be broken by the winds, the pressure change or airborne objects. Long span rooms should be avoided, especially when they have high ceilings. (Most supermarket selling areas would fall into this group.) The pressure changes brought on by a tornado cause high exterior walls to collapse, bringing down the roof. It is also wise to stay away from windward wall, which are usually the south and west walls of the building, assuming the tornado is coming from the southwest.

The best shelter is an interior space on the lowest floor. The innermost room in the store, such as an employee breakroom or bathroom, might be the safest place because interior walls are less likely to collapse than outer walls. Hurricane Hazards

Hurricanes differ from tornadoes in their intensity, time of warning, period of duration, and in the type of damage they cause. The parimary damage from a hurricane is caused by the storm surge, which is created when the winds in a hurricane forming offshore raise the ocean level, creating waves that hit the shore with tremendous force. The greatest source of destruction is water. Hurricanes can dump from 10 to 30 inches of rain on a community and the flooding can be just as severe in inland areas as along the coast.

Since hurricanes are tracked for several days before they strike, there is plenty of time to prepare for the storm. A first step for a supermarket staff would be to photograph the store, both inside and out. These pictures will help bring faster and more accurate processing of insurance claims after the storm is over.

Other steps that can be taken to reduce damage include:

* Use shutters or boards to protect the front windows. If no boards are available, heavy masking tape applied in the shape of an "X" may limit shattering;

* Remove all outdoor signs;

* Leave a small window open on the side of the building away from the storm's path to help equalize pressure;

* Store stock or merchandise as high as possible on the gondolas and place merchandise in the backroom on top of double or triple pallets to keep it away from water;

* Turn off electricity at all breakers to discourage fires from starting after the storm is over;

* Cover valuable merchandise with tarpaulins to reduce damage if the roof caves in;

* Make sure that all entrances to the building are securely locked to eliminate looting after the storm;

* Prepare fitted covers to protect the registers, scanning equipment and store computers; and,

* Cover and protect bakery, deli, meat cutting and other valuable backroom equipment.

Similar precautions should also be taken before a flood. Since damage from a flood is just as likely to be caused by fire as by water, all areas within the store where electrical fires could start should be well protected. Also, sandbags should be placed at the points where water is most likely to enter. These simple precautions can reduce damage and make the cleanup process easier. Fire Protection

The National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice says 43% of all business establishments that suffer a serious fire loss never resume business. And those that do reopen may never regain the customers they had before the fire. Approximately 20% of all fires involve stores and offices, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

The most effective preparation to take against fire is the installation of a working sprinkler system. Automatic sprinkler systems not only protect against fires, but also fight them as soon as they are detected. The water they spray can not only help extinguish the blaze, but also reduce the amount of water damage caused in the effort because they use about 85% less water than fire hoses. Water damage can frequently be more severe than damage caused by fire.

Of all supermarket fires, 40% are caused by electrical systems, 20% by careless smoking and 12% by heating or cooking equipment. Arson and incinerators are each blamed for 8.5% of fires, and another 3% of supermarket fires result from combustibles stored near heaters.

A fire brigade within the store can reduce damage if the fire occurs when the store is open. The brigade should consist of a fire chief, who directs the group, a fire squad with responsibility for operating portable fire extinguishers, and a sprinkler control person, who makes sure that sprinklers are working. Each brigade should also have a person familiar with the store's electrical equipment so that it can be shut down when needed, and an evacuation leader, responsible for helping employees and customers leave the building in an orderly fashion. Somebody should also be assigned to stand outside the building and direct arriving firemen to the best spot to fight the fire.

Before any emergency occurs, every store should make duplicates of all essential records and store these copies somewhere away from the store site. Ledgers, accounts receivable, check cashing records, personnel records and other invaluable information can be saved from a disaster by using this method, reducing problems after any disaster. Records stored away from the site should be periodically updated, often on a monthly basis.
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Title Annotation:preparedness for emergencies
Author:Tanner, Ronald
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Date:Oct 1, 1984
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