Better safe than sorry: Protecting your business from disaster
As climate change makes extreme weather events more common and more severe, and BC continues to be a geologically-active region, there are plenty of reasons for you to be wary of disaster risks posed to you and your business. Just as you would plan for protecting your home and your family, there are significant steps you can take to help ensure your business, employees and assets are safe and can recover quickly in the event of an emergency.
As the saying goes, “if you fail to plan, you can only plan to fail”—with that in mind, here are some important measures you can take to protect your business and help it to recover from the impacts of a disaster:
Form a team
The first step in creating your Business Emergency Preparedness Plan (BEPP) is identifying who should be involved in planning process. If your business is small with only a few employees, that might just be yourself; however, for larger businesses it will be valuable to have a team of people with strong collective knowledge of all business operations. Having a leadership team onboard at the start of the planning process is also a good way to ensure top-down organizational commitment to emergency preparedness.
Know the risks
While the diverse geography of Canada allows us to enjoy unrivaled access to recreation in mountains, valleys, forests, rivers, lakes, beaches and oceans, it also unfortunately means that we face several different regional hazards. Earthquakes, floods, wildfires, tsunamis, landslides and avalanches are just some of the hazards you should be aware of, and recognizing which ones pose the highest threat to your business is step one in planning to be prepared. Use an interactive map, such as the one on the PreparedBC website, to figure out which hazards pose the greatest risks to your business based on your location so you can prepare accordingly.
Additionally, ensure you check your insurance policy and understand the limits of your coverage, as businesses are not eligible to apply for government disaster financial assistance if insurance was available for a particular loss and you chose not to obtain coverage.
Identify the dangers
Once you know what kind of hazards your business is facing, start taking regular inventory of the dangers posed by possible impacts and begin working to mitigate potential threats.
If your business has a physical address, such as an office or storefront, this could include securing shelves and other things that could fall during an earthquake, keeping electrical or paper items that could be damaged by flooding off the floor, or checking fire warning and extinguishing systems.
Determine your needs
A big part of preparing your business to respond quickly and effectively to an emergency is mapping out your core operational needs—materials, procedures, systems, suppliers, etc.—and ensuring you have a business continuity plan to tolerate disruptions in your access to them. Questions you may ask yourself include:
- What happens if my building is inaccessible? Can I run my business from another location?
- Do I have back-up power generation capabilities to power critical equipment, machinery or other systems?
- How will my suppliers, shippers and other resource partners be affected in an emergency? Do I have alternate arrangements to procure the services and goods they provide?
- Will I be able to continue payroll if my business operations are disrupted for a period of time? How will I assist employees whose families or homes may also be affected by an emergency?
- How will I keep in contact with my employees during an emergency? If internet or phone services are disconnected, what’s the best way for us to stay in touch?
In addition to mapping out these essential connections, it’s important to ensure any critical documentation is backed-up regularly and stored on secure and accessible off-site formats.
Make a plan
Once you’ve identified these key points, it’s time to start putting together a formal BEPP.
Using the assessed risks and impacts, develop a risk analysis table that lays out the identified hazards, an inventory of critical business assets and potential impacts and risks in a format that allows you to easily estimate the severity of possible scenarios. See the City of Vancouver Business and Employer Emergency Preparedness Guide for several examples of risk analyses that range in complexity depending on a business’s size and needs.
With your risk analysis complete, you can now proceed to creating a comprehensive BEPP that outlines the preparation, response and recovery plans that will help you protect your business, employees and assets in any emergency situation. Government websites, such as the Government of BC and City of Vancouver, offer BEPP templates that will help you ensure you have every detail covered and readily accessible.
As with any business plan, it’s important to regularly go through your BEPP with your emergency planning team to make sure it is up-to-date and relevant. Equally important is practicing your emergency procedures with your employees to ensure they are aware of what steps they need to take to keep themselves safe.
For more information, resources and guides on how to prepare your business for an emergency, visit:
- Public Health Agency of Canada – Emergency Preparedness and Response
- PreparedBC – Emergency Management
- City of Vancouver – Business Emergency Preparedness
- Emergency Preparedness for Industry and Commerce Council
- Business Development Bank of Canada