It's estimated that a water main breaks every two minutes. For most counties, these broken water mains result in a boil water advisory until the damage is fixed.
While it's inconvenient for homeowners, it can be devastating for small businesses.
When you can't drink or use the water without treating it, how can you keep your doors open?
The last thing you want to do is put your staff or customers at risk.
While there's no way to get the county's water treatment system up and running more quickly, there are some things you can do to keep your business running during an advisory.
Keep reading to find out how to handle a boil advisory in your restaurant or store.
First, Understand What a Boil Water Advisory Is
When an advisory is issued, the tap water is no longer safe to drink or use without treatment. Bacteria, germs, and parasites have been introduced into the water supply.
Boiling water for one minute will be enough to kill bacteria and pathogens. This must be done to make the water safe for human use until the county repairs the water main and their treatment facility is back online.
Attempting to use tap water before the advisory has been lifted puts yourself, your staff, and your customers at risk.
Prepare for the Outage
You'll want to take at least a few hours to get your business ready. Stock up on bottled water for guests to drink. If you need to, consider getting water and ice from a neighboring county that doesn't have an advisory in place.
When getting food ready for customers, make sure all produce is washed with boiled water. Turn off the beverage machines, ice makers, and any other equipment that relies on tap water.
This way, you won't accidentally serve untreated water or contaminate otherwise clean equipment and food.
Once the advisory is over, you'll need to sanitize those machines to get rid of any contaminants that made it into the water lines.
Sanitize Equipment and Dishes
If you have a commercial dishwasher, you'll need to run the sanitization cycle for every dish you clean in it. This heats the water to a high enough temperature that all bacteria and contaminants are killed completely.
For smaller operations like coffee shops or bakeries, make sure employees are washing dishes in treated water.
They can also soak dishes in a diluted bleach solution and allow them to air dry.
Using untreated tap water spreads the contaminants to clean dishes, putting your customers at risk.
If you want to save time on cleanup, consider switching to disposable plates, cups, and cutlery. This will cut down the number of dishes that need to be sanitized or cleaned with treated water.
Boil Water and Store It
If you're working with limited cooking surfaces, boiling water as needed isn't an option.
Keep your business up and running by boiling as much water as you can before opening your doors.
Then, store the water in food-safe sanitized containers for future use. The more you have on hand, the less interruption your customers will experience during service.
Make sure the containers are closed and covered. Otherwise, the water may still be contaminated with dirt or bacteria from general food preparation.
Make Sure Employees Continue Washing Their Hands
Food preparation requires clean hands at all times. Make sure your employees have access to filtered or boiled water for all handwashing.
Using untreated tap water during an advisory helps spread the bacteria throughout the kitchen and puts your employees at risk for illness.
If filtered water is in short supply, provide your team with disposable gloves. This will keep their hands clean and reduce the need for frequent handwashing.
Get Rid of Potentially Contaminated Food
If your team was working on some menu items before the advisory was issued, it may be best to throw them in the trash.
Unless you're absolutely sure that the food was prepared before the water was contaminated, you could end up serving bacteria-filled meals to your guests.
When in doubt, throw it out and start over with properly cleaned ingredients and sanitized water.
Consider Offering a Limited Menu
During a boil advisory, you don't have to offer everything on your menu.
If there are dishes that would blow through your treated water supply quickly, take them off the menu until the advisory is lifted.
A limited menu is still better than having to close down completely. Your customers will understand.
No matter how large or limited your menu is, make sure all produce is cleaned with treated or boiled water.
Cooking the food is enough to kill food-borne bacteria, but it may not reach high enough temperatures to kill the waterborne pathogens that triggered the advisory.
Provide Treated Water in the Restroom
Customers who come to your business may need to use the restroom. While toilets can work normally during an advisory, the tap water in the sink still needs to be treated.
Turn off the water supply for the bathroom sink and provide boiled water for guests to use. A five-gallon drinking water container with a dispenser can serve as a make-shift tap.
If this isn't an option for your business, provide hand sanitizer.
Hand sanitizer will let your guests clean their hands without exposing them to potential hazards in the tap water.
How to Be Prepared Before the Water Boil Advisory
Keeping your business open during a boil water advisory takes a lot of time-consuming prep work.
Save yourself time and stress by installing a quality ultraviolet filter in your commercial kitchen.
These systems are capable of treating hundreds of gallons of water a day. If you're in the middle of an advisory, this can reduce potential downtime and keep your kitchen running smoothly.
These filters safely remove pathogens and bacteria, leaving you with fresh, clean water that's ready to use right out of the tap.
Contact us for more information on which system will best fit your business's needs.