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Prepare your business for disasters and emergencies

Planning for business interruptions, emergencies, and disasters is a crucial aspect of running a business.

A plan can help you and your employees:

  • Respond and stay safe during an emergency
  • Avoid or minimize downtime in the event of a disaster or emergency
  • Recover full operations quickly

Business continuity plan

The ability to respond quickly to disruptive incidents is important. Having a business continuity plan could make the difference in the long-term to the survival of your organization.

A business continuity plan should include:

  • A business impact assessment
  • Steps to reduce exposure to identified risks and hazards that could cause business closure
  • Mitigation guidelines
  • Recovery plans

How to create a business continuity plan

Every business has unique characteristics, such as customers, supply chains, products, services, and  physical assets that must be addressed in their plan. Follow these steps to prepare your business or organization. 

Business continuity planning includes an emergency preparedness plan.

You will need enough supplies to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours following a major emergency, as City services will be affected. Prepare an emergency kit for your workplace with supplies including food and water.

Risks

Identify and assess the risks your business faces and make plans to mitigate and manage these risks; for example:

  • Threats to people (staff and customers)
  • Physical assets (buildings, machinery, information technology, etc)

Vulnerabilities

Look for vulnerabilities and address them. Ask questions such as:

  • What risks does my business face? How will they affect my business? How likely are they to occur? Where is my business most vulnerable?
  • What losses are associated with the risks? If I am shut down, what costs will I face to reopen?
  • What can I do to prepare? How can I mitigate the impact of these risks? How can I reduce the likelihood of having to shut down?

Prioritize operations

Create a list of critical functions in order of importance, and determine which should be reinstated first. What staff, materials, procedures, contacts, and equipment are necessary for each of your critical functions?

Think of disaster scenarios

Consider your strongest and weakest links, and plan for different events by thinking through disaster scenarios. A catastrophic earthquake is one important scenario to prepare for, but many other emergencies can impact your business operations. Example of disaster scenarios:

  • Telephone or internet stops working in the middle of a busy day
  • A burglary causes property loss and damage
  • A power failure that lasts for days
  • You are unable to use your workspace for weeks due to a fire in your building

Generate further scenarios that are specific to your business, and develop response plans.

After identifying the risks your business faces, think about how you might reduce those risks. Develop strategies to reduce potential impacts, and plan now for emergency response actions.

Plan for business continuity and make critical operations stronger and safer by building resilience into your business plan by taking steps such as:

  • Backing up documentation
  • Preparing for utilities disruptions
  • Understanding your insurance needs
  • Gettinging adequate insurance, and understand your insurance coverage
  • Gathering emergency supplies and prepare emergency kits and plans
  • Encouraging employees to get prepared. If employees and their families are ready for emergency, they will be more available to help with business recovery.
  • Communicating with suppliers and vendors
  • Make contingency plans, such as: 
    • Who are your most important customers, suppliers, shippers, and vendors? 
    • How will you communicate with them? Do they have business continuity plans?
    • Can you identify alternate companies that can step in during a supply chain disruption?

The purpose of a business continuity plan is to enable a business to recover or maintain its activities in the event of a disruption to normal business operations.

What to put in your plan

Having analyzed your business and assessed the risks involved, you now know which areas to focus on in your plan, either customer care during an emergency or on having remote access to your phone system. You will also know which incidents are most likely to damage your business, and how to minimize the damage that it could cause.

Your business continuity plan should include:

  • Plans, measures, and arrangements to ensure continuous delivery of critical services and products
  • Identification of necessary resources, including personnel, information, equipment, legal counsel, and infrastructure protection
  • Checklists, protocols, and contact information
  • Emergency communications plan – how you will communicate with key stakeholders. This may include staff, customers and clients, suppliers, and shareholders
  • Resource list and contact information for business continuity needs such as alternate workspaces, backup equipment and power supply, alternate suppliers and vendors, and  payment systems

As you work on your strategy, always remember that good business continuity plans are flexible, clearly written, tested regularly, and understood by all staff, and integrated into your every day to day business.

Activation and implementation

Your plan should outline when emergency procedures will be implemented, and who has the authority to activate the plan.

The only way to ensure that your continuity plan will work is to test it with regular exercises and then update the plan. Consider your business continuity plan a dynamic document, and be prepared to revise and update when necessary.

Cover of BEEP plan says: My BEEP Plan - Start small, think big, prep your biz.Start your plan with these BEEP guides

Use these Business and Employer Emergency Preparedness (BEEP) guides to to prepare your business or organization to continue business operation and recover quickly after a disaster.

Emergency safety kits

Emergency safety kit

Did you know there is a 1 in 4 chance of a major earthquake in Vancouver within the next 50 years?

Be prepared, by creating emergency safety kits filled with supplies you will need if you are forced to evacuate your home.

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