Maintaining continuity if (when) disaster strikes your business
By David Ward
ANY SMALL;BUSINESS owners who think,
“A natural disaster can’t possibly happen to
me,” may want to spend their next lunch break
browsing the Canadian Disaster Database.
Want earthquakes? There’s the minor
1988 quake in Quebec that still managed to
cause $37 million in damage, or the massive
8. 1 quake that hit offshore near the Queen
Charlotte Islands in British Columbia in 1949.
Looking for tropical storms? Irene caused
more than $137 million worth of damage
when it swept across Quebec, Newfoundland
and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia
and Prince Edward Island in August 2011.
Explosions and fire? In 2008, a series of
explosions at Sunrise Propane Industrial
Gases, in North York, Ontario, left one firefighter dead and forced 12,000 people from
their homes and businesses.
Despite these and literally thousands of
other disasters, both natural and man-made,
that have affected Canadians over the past
century, many small-business owners still
take a “What, me worry?” attitude when it
comes to disaster preparedness.
“It’s one of the biggest challenges we face,”
says Costco member Des O’Callaghan, a well-
known Toronto-area business continuity con-
sultant. “There are some organizations who
stay permanently in denial, figuring it’s never
going to happen to them.”
But whether it’s from a massive winter
storm or a train derailment with hazardous
materials, virtually every Canadian business
is vulnerable to a disaster at some point—and
often how a company fares both during and
after the event ends up not so much a matter
of luck, but rather preparedness.
Disaster-proofing your business
In a 2012 survey by the Canadian Red
Cross, 66 per cent of Canadians said that they
haven’t taken steps to prepare for a disaster.
“We know both the frequency and sever-
ity of disasters are on the rise,” says Emily
Pietropaolo, adviser for preparedness and
operational support at the Canadian Red
Cross. “And nearly half of Canadians have per-
sonally experienced at least two types of disas-
ters, like power outages or minor flooding.”
Disaster-proofing a small business doesn’t
have to be expensive, but it does require busi- CONTINUED ON PAGE 18
ness owners to get their employees to buy into
the importance of emergency planning both
at work and at home.
“Employees who are prepared for a disaster or emergency at home are more likely to
be prepared for a similar event at their place
of work,” explains Pietropaolo, who adds that
company owners and their workers can educate themselves on both how to prepare and
what to do after a disaster by going online to
Today even small, local businesses can be
surprisingly reliant on data and technology
for everything from billing to fulfillment to
regulatory compliance and customer relations. Because of that, any business continuity
plan drawn up also has to include provisions
to keep telephony and other communication
lines open to employees, vendors and clients—as well as a way to ensure the company’s data is protected even if its offices are
damaged or inaccessible.
“At a minimum, small organizations
should know the value of their data and protect it based on that metric,” says Costco
member Mike Reynolds, director of product
marketing for the Symantec Corporation.
“One best practice is to execute a business
impact analysis to understand which systems
“”We know both the frequency and severity of disasters are on the rise. —Emily Pietropaolo