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In Oklahoma, disasters are known to strike at any time. As a licensed establishment that sells food to the general public it’s important to plan and prepare ahead of time to ensure food sold during times of emergency are safe. Lodging establishments should also be aware of emergency food practices. This not only protects public health but also the establishment.
The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is the regulatory authority over the public water supply. They work with Public Water Authorities (PWA) across the state to ensure water is safe to drink and potable. In the event the DEQ or PWA issues a Mandatory Boil Order or Precautionary Boil Advisory, the DEQ has determined the water is not safe to drink.
Legally, the PWA must notify each customer using their public water system. This may be by phone, fliers, postings or media.
This is important for the licensed food establishments to recognize such a notice. The local county health department will work to remind licensed food establishments of their requirement and responsibility outlined in the Oklahoma Administrative Code (OAC) to operate with potable water:
Failing to operate with potable water may result in a disease outbreak, an imminent health hazard, violations against the establishment or a possible cease and desist order.
Below are some tools and templates to help you identify sources of water that must be addressed and planned for if DEQ or the PWA issues a boil order or advisory.
If you have questions about the safety of your water or when the water is potable following a water crisis, Please contact the Department of Environmental Quality or your local Public Water Authority.
Per OAC 310:257-15-32, the licensed establishment has the responsibility to cease operations and report if an imminent health hazard exists:
(a) Except as specified in (b) of this Section, a license holder shall immediately discontinue operations and notify the regulatory authority if an imminent health hazard exists because of an emergency such as a fire, flood, sewage backup, no hot water in the facility, insufficient refrigeration and/or hot food storage facilities available, substantial evidence or presence of a large number of insects or evidence of rodents in food or on food preparation surfaces, interruption of safe potable water supply to the facility, misuse of poisonous or toxic materials, onset of an apparent foodborne illness outbreak, interruption of electrical service for more than 4 hours, severe structural damage in the facility, an employee working with a Salmonella, Shigella, E. coli 0157:H7 or Hepatitis A infection, gross unsanitary occurrence or condition, or other circumstance as determined by the Commissioner of Health, or his designee, that shall endanger public health.
(b) A license holder need not discontinue operations in an area of an establishment that is unaffected by the imminent health hazard.
Notification may be a call or email to the local county health department during business hours. Or at any time, including after hours, a simple email may be sent to the CHSLicensing@health.ok.gov inbox. Please include in all notices, the name and license number of the establishment, the county and address, and a brief overview of the issue.
Oklahoma has its fair share of natural disasters and setting the bar high for the Oklahoma Standard, people want to help. For those donating food, the following sites should be reviewed to recognize standards, liability and training opportunities.
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