Having a Plan for Hurricane Season in the Food Supply Chain


As educational activities locally and statewide were winding down in late May, and folks looked forward to the long Memorial Day holiday weekend, activities of the emergency management kind were ratcheting upward.
With the start of June came the start of the sixth-month 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. Emergency management officials far and wide renewed their calls for everyone— from special-needs individuals to families to business owners and operators— to “Get a Plan!” for the always-real possibility of a hurricane landfall in Florida. That’s prudent advice, supported by all of us here at Adams Cold Storage (ACS) in Auburndale. You can jump-start any emergency planning that hasn’t begun with an online visit to FloridaDisaster.org.
At ACS, the beginning of hurricane season triggers a review of the solid emergency plan we’ve had in place for many years, learning what the state’s emergency management agencies are doing differently to help protect people and property, and digesting as much information as we can gather from the hurricane forecasts produced and released by a number of weather-watching organizations. Whether the forecasts are light, average, or heavy (the folks at the Polk County Emergency Operations Center are expecting “average” hurricane and tropical storm activity this season), no one in responsibility can let down his or her guard. All it takes is one storm— The Big One out of some little ones or nothing at all— to put us out of commission for a lengthy period.
Importantly, hurricane-season readiness at ACS also means helping to prepare the companies we serve for the possibility of a major storm hit here. Every year around June 1, we send to each of our food-distribution customers a letter that outlines the ACS emergency operating procedures for hurricanes and other “acts of God,” such as tornadoes and lightning. Basically, we remind our customers what we can and can’t do and will and won’t do to best ensure the safety of ACS employees, onsite vendors, and the customers’ valuable warehoused inventory.
If a hurricane warning is issued by the National Hurricane Center for this area and we determine that it’s necessary to shut down ACS operations, we will guard against the possible loss of electrical power by securing onsite ammonia refrigerants and lowering temperatures in our refrigerators and freezers. “This will require a planned shutdown of our refrigeration system,” our letter states. “During this shutdown period, the warehouse will remain closed. All internal doors to the warehouse will be closed in order to maintain temperatures to protect your product.”
The emergency operations letter we send to our customers also serves as a gentle reminder that they need to keep tropical storm activity in mind as they schedule their food shipments.
In the late summer of 2004, when this area was hit by three highly damaging hurricanes— Do you remember Charley, Francis, and Jeanne?— a local warehouse received, between hurricanes Francis and Jeanne, a rail car that contained three tractor-trailer loads of potatoes from Idaho. It never should have been shipped here. Because trees and other debris blocked the rails farther up the line and nothing could be done with the potatoes— refueling the car’s reefer unit wasn’t possible— the rail car just sat in Florida’s late-summer heat for a number of days. You can imagine the smell when the rail car finally was opened. Needless to say, it wasn’t like a bed of freshly picked roses.
This column is sponsored by Adams Cold Storage, LLC.

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.

by BEN ADAMS, JR.