How to

27 July 2017

Power Cuts: How Cold Store Facilities Should Respond

A power cut can happen at any time, but while they may just be a nuisance for most everyday households, they can actually be devastating in cold store facilities.

If you’ve ever been annoyed because you’ve had to throw out your food after your fridge and freezer units lost power, just imagine what that must be like for a company whose sole purpose is to store chilled and frozen goods. The same can be said for facilities that house vaccinations, but thankfully there are some measures that can be taken to try and preserve the stock should there be a power cut.

Don’t Open the Door

Keeping the door to refrigerator and freezer units closed is vital in the hours following a power outage. The blackout may only last for a short time, and if this is the case then there’s no reason that the stock should be affected provided you don’t open the unit doors. This is because the cold conditions inside will be retained for several hours without any exposure to the ambient temperature of the facility.

It’s important to do whatever is necessary to avoid the food in storage from warming up too much. Potentially hazardous food, such as raw chicken, can become unsafe for consumption if the temperature rises above 5°C and remains that way for four or more hours. Likewise, certain vaccines may no longer be effective for their purpose once exposed to ambient temperatures so sustaining the cold is essential.

This can easily be monitored through frequent temperature checks. Even if the power is only off for a couple of hours, it’s still important to know how much heat the products have been exposed to during that period of time. Battery powered thermostats are ideal as a back-up if a blackout should occur, as they allow for regular temperature readings to be made while the facility is without power.

Alternative Storage and Transportation

Should the power cut lead to an extended blackout, the loss of stock can be severe. While it may not be possible to prevent it all from spoiling or becoming unsafe, the presence of additional generator-powered units should at least be useful for the storage of some of it. These units don’t rely on the same power source to function and will act as an immediate solution when the freezers and refrigerators start to warm up too much.

It can prove useful to plan for potential blackouts by establishing working agreements with other facilities before such an event happens. For vaccines, this can include places like hospitals and health departments that can keep this stock in their own controlled facilities.

In order to reach these locations without being exposed to the warmer external temperatures, they need to be transported in appropriate conditions. Portable DC powered refrigerators and freezers can be useful, although it’s important to monitor the temperature throughout the journey between facilities to ensure that they’re being appropriately cooled. Different processes may benefit different products, for instance cold packs may have a better effect for some supplies and dry ice for others.

Blackouts are never welcome in a place of work, especially when there’s no knowing how long the power will be out for. So long as these measures are carried out, though, it doesn’t have to cause a huge loss for the facility, and the majority of the stock can still be passed on for its intended use.

James Darvill

James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. When he’s not staying up late watching the Simpsons he’s beating the world at Mario Kart, always with a glass of wine in hand.