KPS Global logo

Steps to Take After a Natural Disaster to Evaluate Damage to Walk-in Cooler or Freezer


Natural disasters, like hurricanes, floods, or tornadoes, can be overwhelming to respond to.

Not only can they be dangerous to you, but they can be dangerous to the critical equipment that supports our food chain, like commercial walk-in coolers and freezers. This blog is specifically aimed at addressing walk-in coolers and freezers after a natural disaster.

The first priority is customer and employee safety during a dangerous situation. If a walk-in cooler or freezer gets damaged, there is a series of steps to salvage a walk-in freezer. In some cases, the walk-in coolers and freezers will not be salvageable due to the severity of the damage. Assuming the walk-in coolers and freezer are salvageable, there are essential steps to be taken to avoid more damage.

It is critical that these steps be followed correctly and sequentially.

Commercial Walk-in Cooler disaster aftermath
A restaurant in Mississippi saves its employees by taking cover inside a walk-in refrigerator during a tornado. Disclaimer: Do not use a commercial walk-in cooler or restaurant walk-in freezer to take shelter from a tornado.

Steps to Protect Your Walk-in Freezer:

In the event of a natural disaster, specific steps must be taken to protect and preserve your commercial walk-in cooler or freezer. Due to the low temperatures of walk-in freezers, there are stricter protocols to follow after a natural disaster has occurred than a walk-in cooler. The first check is to determine if you still have electric service because the steps vary depending on this factor.

EXPERT TIP (HARDHAT): Turning the refrigeration unit and the door heater circuits off is crucial. If the power comes back on, the door heaters will become extremely hot because the freezer is not at a low enough temperature. Energized door heater circuits without an operating refrigeration system can create a fire.

When There Is No Electricity to Your Commercial Walk-in Cooler or Walk-In Freezer:

  1. When you have no electricity to your walk-in cooler or freezer, the first step is to remove all perishable food products as soon as possible. Not only will your product spoil, but the bacteria produced from the product as it thaws can seep into the walls and floor joints, further damaging the walk-in freezer.
  2. The second step is to remove any water that is in the walk-in freezer. If excess water remains inside of the walk-in, it can damage the walls and floors by staining/oxidizing the surfaces and creating mold and bacteria growth.
  3. The third step is to open all the doors to promote outside airflow into the walk-in freezer to dry out the inside of the box.
  4. The fourth step is to evaluate the condition of the walk-in. Inspect for signs of damage. Examples could be the door no longer closing, joint separation, large surface dents or tears, uneven flooring, and damaged strip curtains. You can reorder replacement parts from KPS Global if the damage is minor. If the minor damage hints at a more significant issue, we recommend you bring a qualified professional to diagnose the next best steps.
  5. The fifth step would be to measure the moisture content in the unit to ensure no moisture is left in the walk-in freezer. If the Walk-in freezer is turned back on with moisture in the floor or wall joints, it can freeze and cause further issues. Some of these issues could be joint separation and the concrete floor slab heaving.

When repairs have been made and power is restored, it is important to follow an extended draw-down schedule to help pull out all the moisture from the box. This method will slowly remove the humidity from the box to prevent moisture freezing and causing joint separation and damage to the slab.

EXPERT TIP (HARDHAT): Run the freezer as close to freezing, without hitting 32 degrees. The closer to freezing, the more moisture and humidity will be drawn out of the box. So ideally, as close to 33 degrees Fahrenheit as possible.

Walk-in refrigerator disaster aftermath

When You Have Electricity to Your Commercial Walk-in Cooler and Walk-In Freezer:

  1. If you still have power, the first step is to inspect the product inside and ensure the walk-in freezer is holding temperature. If the walk-in is not holding the correct temperature, remove all contents from the walk-in to ensure no product spoils. If the product has exceeded the safe holding temperature during the outage, dispose of the product. Perishable products could have warmed up to the point of growing bacteria, which makes them unsafe to consume. If you are questioning the safety of your product consult the USDA Food Safety Guidelines. If the walk-in does not hold the correct temperature due to the natural disaster it is important to turn the refrigeration and door heaters off.
  2. The second step is to evaluate and inspect the damage that has been done to the walk-in freezer. Depending on the severity of the damage, we suggest getting a trained professional to look at the walk-in freezer to evaluate the box. If the damage is minor, replacement parts can be ordered at KPS Global Aftermarket Parts.

  3. The third step would be to check whether water is inside the walk-in cooler or freezer. If severe exterior damage has happened, water from the natural disaster can leak into the walk-in cooler and freezer. Moisture can accumulate from internal temperature drops inside the walk-in cooler or freezer. If this has occurred, dry the unit out due to possible moisture that could remain from the lowering temperature inside the walk-in. Along with propping open the door for improved airflow, we suggest using fans to aid the drying process.
  4. After repairs have been made to the walk-in cooler and freezer, the fourth step we suggest is to examine the moisture content that remains inside the unit. If step three does not completely get rid of the moisture that remains inside the unit, we suggest using the refrigeration unit to pull the moisture and humidity out. The extended draw-down schedule uses the refrigeration unit to draw the moisture content and humidity out, creating the perfect restored environment.


Natural disasters can be quite destructive. The damage to your commercial walk-in cooler and walk-in freezers can potentially be contained when swift action is taken. We hope you are never faced with this situation, but we hope this blog can be an assistance in recovery and help you address your walk-in cooler and freezer in a disaster aftermath. Contact KPS Global if you need help with your commercial walk-in cooler and walk-in freezer.
Share on LinkedIn
Share on Twitter
Share on Facebook

Subscribe to Stay Informed