What The Calgary Flood Taught Us – Business Continuity Planning

A rescue boat travels down a residential street during the 2013 Calgary Flood

On June 20th 2013, Calgary, along with several other municipalities in Southern Alberta declared a State of Emergency due to severe rainfall and flood threat. By morning on the 21st it wasn’t just a threat – the rivers whose origins lay in the East Slopes of the Rockies couldn’t be contained anymore. The effect on many communities was devastating. In the wake of this disaster, however, community flourished; people came forward by the hundreds to help those in neighbourhoods that were hit hard by the flooding. Impromptu cleanup crews were organized, alternate accommodations were provided and donation drives were launched.

How did this event affect us at work? Were we able to continue operations and deliver critical services? Did we have a plan in place which allowed us to do this or did we just react and hope for the best?

Business Continuity and Emergency Response Planning is an important consideration for organizations – particularly those organizations who deliver critical services to people. Floods, weather-induced travel restrictions, pandemics and other threats are likely to eventually cause interruption to our services. It’s important to have a game-plan ready to go when such instances occur.

Ideally, Business Continuity and Emergency Response Planning is an ongoing facet of an organization’s planning and development – and will have a designated ‘Team’ to address planning as well as the actual emergency response. The basics of Business Continuity and Emergency Response are built around  Prevention / Mitigation, Preparedness, Response and Recovery.  

The essentials of Business Continuity and Emergency Response Planning are relatively basic but do require a team of individuals to proactively address preparedness and contingency planning. Policy and Protocol essentials include,

  1. A Communications Plan which dictates the organization’s communication to all stakeholders
  2. A Physical Resources contingency plan in the event of lost access to worksites
  3. An Information Technology contingency plan to address records, security and telecommuting
  4. Staff Support Response including alternate scheduling, working from home, etc.
  5. Financial contingency plans to ensure essential banking, payroll etc.
  6. Business Impact Analysis and Service Delivery contingency plans

There are significant resources available on-line for Business Continuity and Emergency Response Planning. It’s important not to re-invent any wheels and note that the Federal Emergency Management Act (2007) has been adopted by provinces and municipalities alike. A State of Emergency affecting entire communities will involve emergency management organizations at the municipal and provincial levels. Knowing who these organizations are and how they communicate in an emergency will keep your emergency management and communications solid.

How your organization manages an emergency will affect your service delivery, operations, staff morale and public perception. It’s an important and, I believe, essential endeavour. Storms will come and go, waters will rise and fall; when we’ve got people depending on us, we need to be able to weather it all.

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