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Emergency preparedness: the five things you need to do

We all know that emergencies can happen – fires, floods, earthquakes – but how many of us are truly prepared to deal with the immediate and long-term effects of these events?

Emergency preparedness requires you to be proactive. Planning for different scenarios and making decisions now will put you a step ahead should disaster occur. 

What are the five things you need to do?

1. Assign Responsibility for Managing a Crisis
  • You as the owner will likely be in charge if your business is small. If your business is large enough, nominate someone well-suited to crisis management who can be your advisor and lead a crisis-management team.
  • When possible it is preferable to separate the management of a crisis from executive decision-making. An owner or senior manager may have their hands full making important business decisions quite apart from counting staff, liaising with fire marshals or leading an evacuation. 
2. Identify Threats to Your Business
  • Consider your location
    • Region (risk of earthquake, tsunami, flood, severe weather, forest/urban fire, landslide)
    • Closeness (railway, major road, river, waterfront, manufacture/storage of dangerous goods where human-mistake issues increase risk) 
  • Nature of your business:
    • Increased exposure to natural events
    • Increased exposure to human-mistake events          
  • Consider each threat by asking:
    • How likely is the event to occur? (Beware events that are unlikely to occur but could wipe you out if they did)
    • How vulnerable are you?
    • What would be the impact on your business?
3. Reduce the Risk Identified (where possible)
  • Fire
    • Install/upgrade fire safety equipment
    • Move flammable materials away from potential sources of fire
    • Review/replace old electrical wiring
  • Flood
    • Relocate electronic equipment away from regularly flooded areas (basements)
    • Relocate hard copies of important documents away from areas that may flood
  • Earthquake/Tsunami
    • Install tie-downs for equipment, files etc.
    • Reposition equipment or furniture to minimize risk of injury
    • Have transportation for quick movement to higher ground if seaside
  • General
    •  Security
      • Install/upgrade security system
      • Safeguard/backup data systems
    • Equipment failure
      • Maintenance contracts (automatic roll-overs not recommended but update as needed)
      • Consider replacing unreliable equipment
    • Insurance
      • Review with your broker what is needed for your particular business
  • “Key Man”
  • Life insurance for principal staff
  • Business continuity/interruption
  • Property and Casualty (P&C)
4. Prepare an Emergency Plan

Document essential procedures and reference lists:

  • Evacuation procedures
    • Reviewed and practised every 6 months
      • Alternate exits 
      • Two reporting areas in two separate locations
    • Procedure for reporting present/missing: 
    • Note:  Especially in remote communities, provide all employees with instructions on how to prepare a personal emergency plan and “kit”
  • Contact list emergency numbers
    • Home/cell/mobile
    • Crisis management leader/team
    • Major clients/customers/suppliers
    • Banks/Merchant services
    • Insurance broker
    • Provincial/Municipal Emergency Preparedness Agency
    • Network of outside resources able to assist in a crisis
  • Essential operations or functions that must be recovered in order of priority
  • Vital records/contracts critical to business operations
    • Paper copy – keep duplicates in a safe place such as a lock box
    • Electronic copy – Keep backed up on a memory stick that’s ready to go; for additional protection, consider using a cloud computing service to store vital data
5. Practice & Test your Plan (at least once a year)

Without planning and practice, simply having a plan down on paper could lead to a false expectation that you, your family and staff are safe.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the potential natural disasters that could prevent you from operating as normal
  • How will you communicate with your employees if there is an emergency?
  • Are your records, documents, and employee files backed up?
  • Have you assigned managers/key personnel to assist with an evacuation?
  • Have you taken into consideration any employees with a disability?

Use the CFIB checklist and the simple step-by-step form from our Savings partner Northbridge Insurance, to help predict how an interruption to your core operations would affect your business. 

Business Continuity Plan

Answering the questions above will help you prepare your business continuity plan  – a document that identifies hazards, ways to minimize risk, and ensures the minimum of disruption to your business during an emergency. The business continuity plan should help establish the resources and information needed to deal successfully with an emergency.

Other things to consider:

  • Employment Standards: In most jurisdictions, there is no requirement to pay employees when the business experiences a closure. However, it is best to contact your CFIB counsellor at 1-888-234-2232 or [email protected] to ensure you are in compliance with the law in your province/territory.
  • Service Canada: If your business will be closed for more than a week, thereby causing an interruption of earnings of more than seven days, you will need to issue a Record of Employment to your employees.
  • Canada Revenue Agency: If your business has been severely impacted by a disaster, you may be eligible to apply for relief from penalties or fines incurred as a result of late remittances. 

Your provincial/territorial government may offer similar opportunities for relief from penalties for being late with taxes due to dealing with a disaster.

In conclusion

We can’t understate the importance of planning to deal with emergencies. It’s really a type of insurance – you hope you’ll never need to use it, but you’ll be grateful you have it should disaster strike. Keep your business and employees healthy, and plan ahead using the resources we’ve provided – protecting your business just makes sense.