How Businesses Can Prepare

Emergency preparedness goes beyond protecting our homes and families, we must also plan for the resiliency of the businesses our community depends upon.

Is your business prepared to withstand a disaster? 

The unfortunate truth is that many businesses that experience a disaster will struggle to reopen and regain their footing. While disasters are rare, it’s not impossible that one could impact Maple Ridge. Every year, BC experiences hundreds of small earthquakes; a massive flood in 2013 caused over $6 billion in damages to Calgary and 30 surrounding communities; a train derailment and explosion in 2013 devastated the town of Lac Megantic in Quebec. These events, while rare, can devastate communities and the businesses they count on. 

Business Continuity Planning

From large-scale disasters to small-scale emergencies, events like fires and floods can result in businesses closing their doors for weeks or even months. Fortunately, a small investment of time to build a Business Emergency Preparedness Plan can help businesses survive.

Step 1) Establish an Emergency Preparedness Team

Determine who will be involved in the planning process and assign responsibilities for your Emergency Preparedness (EP) Team. For small businesses, it might just be one person and for larger businesses, a team of people. Ensure those involved have enough collective knowledge to cover critical assets and processes for the plan.

Key Roles for the EP Team

  • Planning and Implementation
  • Policies, Procedures, Organization
  • Communications
  • Technology

Step 2) Identify Essential Services

Your business may be forced to modify, reduce or even eliminate specific services/functions to cope with the impacts of the emergency. An essential service for your business is: 

  • A service that impacts individuals' health and safety.
  • A service/activity that leads to the failure of a business if not performed in a specified time.
  • A service that must be performed to satisfy regulatory requirements.
  • A service that if not performed has an immediate or long term impact.

To determine and prioritize essential services for your business, complete an Essential Service Ranking. You will list your essential services and then rate the degree to which an emergency or disaster will negatively impact key areas of that service, such as finances, employees, technology, suppliers, and customers. This will help you better understand how to prepare for a disaster and what you can do now to protect your services. 

Step 3) Identify Risks and Assess Impacts

Every business faces different types of risks, from environmental to technological. Every risk has unique needs which may require special planning. 

  1. Start with a list of all the hazards your business might face
    • Security: Theft, vandalism, cyber attack, fraud, sabotage
    • Infrastructure: Fire, hazardous materials, power outage, loss of utilities
    • Operational: Supply chain, transportation, IT and telecommunications disruptions
    • Severe Weather: Flooding, tornado, hail, windstorm, lightning
    • Personal: Pandemic, loss of staff, labour action
  2. Create an inventory of critical business assets and processes
    What things are essential to keeping your business running?
  3. Develop a Risk Analysis for your business
    Imagine how each hazard might affect the items on your business inventory.
  4. Develop a Business Impact Assessment 
    Assess each risk and imagine how it could potentially affect your ability to continue operating, as well as the financial impact on your business.

Step 4) Make a Plan

You have now gained a better understanding of potential risks to your business. It's time to create a plan with step-by-step instructions on what to do in the event of an emergency. A business continuity plan will help protect your business, allowing you to stay open and reduce financial losses.

Here Are Some Business Continuity Strategies You May Want to Consider

  • Cross-training staff
  • Borrowing equipment from another business or keeping old equipment as backup
  • Identifying alternative suppliers
  • Storing important data and documents in a safe location
  • Off-site inventory of goods
  • Uninterrupted power supply (UPS)
  • Alternative work location
  • Discuss with your employees how to communicate or report to work 

Business Action Plan Template

Step 5) Educate Employees

Your employees are your greatest asset, and your business will manage much better in an emergency if they are prepared and protected. Figure out the best way to communicate with staff during an emergency and consider what to do if the power is out. While your employees are at work, their well-being is your responsibility.

Health and Safety for Employees

Minimize risks in the workplace by keeping a First Aid Kit and an automated external defibrillator (AED) on the premises. To ensure that employees know how to use them, consider offering First Aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) courses. Provide each employee with a Grab & Go bag that includes emergency protocol and contact information. 

Have an Evacuation Plan

If there was a workplace evacuation, would your employees know where to go? Make an evacuation plan and ensure that all employees are familiar with it. Holding fire drills every month is a good way to make sure all employees know how to evacuate the building.

Step 6) Exercise Your Plan

It’s important to test your plan to see how well it works and to review it regularly. Your plan is a living document and should be updated every six months to ensure the information is still accurate and relevant, and most importantly, that it will work for your business in the event of an emergency.

Discussion-Based Exercises

  • Workshops designed to familiarize the employees with their roles and responsibilities. Participants can actively share ideas and experiences, and plans and procedures may be developed. 
  • Tabletop exercises are designed to test a hypothetical business disruption. The focus is on training and familiarization with roles, responsibilities, and procedures. Tabletop exercises are guided by a facilitator that walks employees through the process. 


  • Emergency Drills train teams on a single operation or function.
  • Full-scale exercises attempt to simulate a real business disruption. This is as close as it gets to a real event. This exercise takes place on location where the hypothetical disruption has occurred. Actual equipment, personnel, and business partners are often included in a full-scale exercise.

Emergency Planning Tools for Businesses