I never have had the chance to visit Paris, so my experiences involving the Notre Dame cathedral were limited to marveling at pictures of it and climbing up it while playing Assassin’s Creed Unity. Neither of those experiences compares to seeing the actual thing, of course. But just the same, I was heartbroken to watch the news footage of the fire that destroyed so much of it this past week.
At the same time, I was amazed to learn later that so many of its priceless artifacts were rescued. Some of the more valuable statues fortunately been moved off-site while renovations were being done. But during the fire itself, the fire department followed its protocol, which I saw best described on Twitter: Save the people, save the art, save what you can, save the structure. The building, ancient as it is, could be rebuilt and has been rebuilt multiple times in its history. The artifacts were irreplaceable. Fire plans and disaster drills can seem tedious and unnecessary, but they can be invaluable when the need arises.
Your meat facility should have protocols in place in the event of a disaster, natural or otherwise. If something happens during workplace hours, you need to have an evacuation plan. What’s more, all of your employees need to know about that plan as well. They need to know where the nearest exits are to their workstations. You need a check-in system so that you can verify that everyone who was in the building has safely exited it. Don’t bury your plan in the middle of an employee handbook and trust your people to read and understand it. Regular reminders and/or fire drills will help make sure that your team members know what they have to do.
Getting people out safely resolves the immediate needs. There are other tasks beyond that. Your customers need to be alerted of what has happened. If your production capabilities will be affected in the short-term or long-term, they’ll need to make their own plans as well. In our February cover story, ProPortion Foods suffered a devastating fire, but thanks to its quick response and customer service, it didn’t lose any customers.
Most importantly, make sure your fire or disaster insurance is up-to-date and comprehensive. There have been too many meat companies that lost a plant in a fire and didn’t have the insurance that they needed to resume operations. If you need to have an expert review your policies, it may be worth the extra cost. Hopefully, an insurance policy is something you’ll never need to use, but you don’t want to find yourself without the necessary help should you ever need to rebuild.