Restaurant Procedure Guidelines for Weather Emergencies and Natural Disasters


outdoor restaurant seating with umbrella Weather can often affect sales in a restaurant, so try to be aware of the typical weather patterns in your area. Depending on your location, you must be prepared for weather conditions of all kinds. Determine which, if any, of these weather crises could occur in your area and prepare for any probable weather emergencies:

  • Flood
  • Ice or snow storm
  • Hurricane
  • Tornado
  • Earthquake

Prepare For a Weather Emergency

Have an action plan. Have a plan in place for when a weather emergency does occur so staff members are prepared and calm (see below).

Be prepared for power outages. Be sure to have emergency lighting, flash lights and the number for the utility company available in case of a power failure.

Keep emergency supplies on hand. Keep a portable radio with extra batteries, first-aid kit(s) and drinking water on hand in case of emergency situations.

Designate safe areas to take cover. In cases of tornados and other natural disasters, know the safe places to take cover in your restaurant. These are typically in restrooms, basements, or in areas with no windows.

Store food high off the ground. Store food inventory on shelves high enough to keep it safe from contaminated water in case the restaurant floods.

What to Do in a Weather Emergency or Natural Disaster

Although much less frequent, natural disasters like hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes do occur and can devastate any building, including a restaurant.

Flood Threat:

  • Heed warnings and evacuate dangerous areas as soon as possible.
  • Advise all patrons of any severe weather warning.
  • In the event of a flash flood, take care of customers and employee safety first. Evacuate the building and move to higher ground when possible.
  • You may need to close the restaurant until you can safely return and repair any damages.

After the Flood:

  • Assess any structural damage to the restaurant.
  • Discard any food that is not in a watertight container, or may have come into contact with contaminated water.
  • Discard wooden and plastic utensils and kitchen supplies.
  • Sanitize metal and ceramic dishes and utensils by boiling them in clean water.
  • Thoroughly wash all equipment and surfaces.
  • You may want an inspector to clear your restaurant for reopening.

Ice or Snow Storm Threat:

  • Be aware of any severe weather warnings for your area, and keep an eye on weather activity outside.
  • Advise all patrons of any severe weather warning.
  • Consider closing the restaurant when road conditions, visibility, or safety are compromised.
  • If a power outage occurs and food cooling equipment fails, do not place perishable food out in the snow. Outside temperatures can vary, and food may be exposed to unsanitary conditions. Follow power outage guidelines when possible. » Learn More About How to Deal with a Power Outage in Your Restaurant

Hurricane Threat:

  • Be aware of any severe weather warnings for your area.
  • Take care of patron and employee safety first. Help patrons to stay calm. Advise all patrons of the severe weather warning.
  • Heed any evacuation recommendations from officials in the area.
  • Evacuate the restaurant—and your area, if necessary—in the case of a hurricane threat.
  • If no evacuation recommendations are provided, direct guests to stay inside the building and away from windows.

After the Hurricane:

  • Emergency response personnel can help with damage assessment.
  • Hurricanes can cause serious flooding, so be prepared for flood damages (see above).

Tornado Threat:

  • Be aware that tornados and severe thunderstorms are a possibility.
  • Alert employees and patrons of the potential danger.
  • Monitor the situation and take further action if the tornado watch becomes a warning.

When a Tornado Warning Occurs:

  • Alert employees and patrons of the tornado warning.
  • Advise patrons to stay inside the building and seek shelter immediately in a place without windows, such as a basement, restroom, or hallway area where there is no danger of anything falling from above.
  • Help patrons to stay calm.


  • Earthquakes rarely offer signs before they occur. If an earthquake occurs while patrons are dining in your restaurant, advise them to seek shelter immediately. The best thing to do it drop to the floor and crawl under a table or other study fixture.
  • Try to find the most stable places in the restaurant away from windows and falling objects.
  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops, and exit when you are sure it is safe.

After the Earthquake:

  • Check yourself, your employees and your patrons for injuries.
  • Administer first-aid to anyone in need.
  • Turn off the gas if you think it may be leaking.
  • Listen to a radio or any emergency officials for more information.

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