Experienced Teams Capable of Mitigating Risk, Injury
Even the most secure of precautions may not prevent disaster, as in the unfortunate Arkema explosion in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey despite two backup generators for protection against losing power to refrigeration systems.
There’s no question that severe weather – not only hurricanes – will continue to pose risks for U.S. processors. Processors in the food, pharma and parcel industries can take steps prior to and after natural disasters that mitigate the risk for injury, accidents or contamination.
Planning & Preparedness
The priority of any plan, he said, is to keep personnel safe. That means the plan should include tornado shelters, evacuation routes, muster areas and high ground. It also means providing workers with adequate food, water and shelter if they become stranded at the plant. A storage unit should be sturdy (i.e., steel or concrete) and set on a foundation so it doesn’t move. Personnel should know where it’s located and a plan should be put in place for updating and maintaining it. In addition, the plan should provide information for securing the facility and orderly processing line shut down.
If the facility rests on a flood plain, then it must have levees and flood walls. According to Worden, many facilities are built on the flood plain because it’s less expensive. He recommends using 100- or 500-year flood criteria to raise the foundation of the building.
Worden said: “Raising the plant is cheaper than having to replace it later.”
He also recommends using the flood criteria when placing backup generators. EAD can establish electrical service backup with generators and establish fuel availability, siting and elevated structures.
“If your prediction for a 500-year flood is 4 feet of water, the generators need to be placed at least 4 feet above the ground,” Worden said.
According to Food Engineering, other recommendations on planning for future severe weather include:
- Moving transformers, switchgear, MCCs and control cabinets to mezzanines above the flood plain.
- Placing major pumps and other critical systems on elevated pads above the flood plain.
- Preparing and executing a controlled shutdown of key systems such as refrigeration, hazardous chemicals and electrical systems.
According to Worden, an effective and thorough action and communications plan will aid in disaster recovery, as well. Plant owners should contact their engineering team to ensure the plant, its processes and other components are safe to operate.
When examining a plant after a natural disaster, Worden first observes any collapsed portions of the facility to establish safe areas vs. unsafe areas. Typically, emergency responders have identified safe areas. Then, he’ll walk the remainder of the facility to find indicators of the start of any collapse mechanisms (e.g., loss of structural bolts), excessive deformations, and cracking or displaced concrete to assess if the structure is still stable for operations.
The action and communication plan should determine what to do with product that has expired or no longer meets quality and/or regulatory standards. If a shutdown was not able to be performed completely or properly and material is stuck in the process, the plant needs a plan for correct disposal.
Process-wise, Worden said, engineers will look for pipe cracks, joint separations, leaking utilities and disconnected and/or failed instrumentation, while electrical engineers will look for exposed wiring, damaged motors and damaged panels and transformers.
“The assessment depends on the damage severity,” he said. It took him and a team of engineers three weeks to perform an assessment on the Stennis Space Center after Hurricane Katrina.
In a food or pharmaceutical processing plant, it’s crucial that asbestos, mold and moisture are eliminated, even from between walls and under flooring, according to Food Engineering. Sanitization and microbiological testing, as well as a general heat treatment (125 to 135 degrees) or fumigation should be completed, according to AIB’s “Flood Disaster Recovery.” Shut down lines should also go through a cleaning procedure prior to testing.
To learn about more ways to prepare for and recover from a natural disaster, read the full article at FoodEngineering.com.
EAD can assist with any of the precautions and recovery efforts mentioned above and more. To learn more about us and our disaster preparedness and recovery services, contact our team.