Here at Adams Cold Storage (ACS) in Auburndale, we have a lot of confidence in the emergency plan we’ve developed for severe weather and other disaster scenarios. You might be surprised to learn, several weeks now into the Atlantic hurricane season, that the plan has already been activated once this year — and that it happened before hurricane season officially began on June 1.
Severe tropical weather doesn’t have to pose a direct threat to Polk County and our food cold storage facility to put us into emergency mode. All it takes is the potential of a threat — an official state of emergency declaration by the governor. That’s what we had on May 26, following the formation of Subtropical Storm Alberto in the Gulf of Mexico. The emergency declaration was for all 67 Florida counties. Alberto eventually made landfall near Laguna Beach, in the Florida Panhandle, with winds of 45 mph.
The Alberto experience wasn’t an emergency dry run for our company; it was the real deal. ACS is a state-contracted warehouse for food used in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) throughout most of Florida. That also makes us a warehouse for food that can be diverted from the schools to the state’s emergency shelters. Soon after the Alberto emergency was declared, emergency management officials were asking about our NSLP inventory — how much food we had on hand — and we were pulling together the resources that could’ve been used to transport the food to the appropriate shelters.
As previously shared, the start of hurricane season triggers an ACS review of the emergency plan we’ve had for many years. We also educate ourselves about any new procedures the emergency management agencies might have, and we learn as much as we can from the hurricane forecasts. We also include in each of our food-distribution customer’s annual contract a letter that outlines the ACS emergency procedures for hurricanes and other “acts of God.” We want our customers to know the plan we have to best ensure the safety of ACS employees, onsite vendors, and the inventory we have in our warehouses.
Last year, Hurricane Irma put us and our emergency plan to the test, but it was a test we passed with high marks. As Irma blew through Polk, our preconditioned warehouse lost power at 9:20 p.m. on Sept. 10. Fortunately, power was out for less than 24 hours, thanks to excellent work by our emergency partners with Tampa Electric Co. Before power was lost and immediately after it was restored, we were able to help with the prestaging and shipment of shelter food to Naples, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, and Key West. All together, we shipped more than 210,000 meal equivalents to state-designated shelters.
Like everyone else, we’re hoping for a light hurricane season this year. However, if it’s anything like last year — or worse — we have a solid emergency plan in place and a well-trained ACS team to deal with it.
This column is sponsored by Adams Cold Storage, LLC, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers.
BIO: Ben Adams, Jr., is an owner and president of president of Adams Cold Storage, LLC, in Auburndale. He has been directly involved in citrus production, warehousing and distribution, as well as state and community support, since 1980. His facility incorporates some 250,000 square feet of multitemperature warehousing, and is AA rated by BRC-International.