Business Emergency Preparedness 101

How businesses can prepare for an emergency


Emergencies can happen any time with no warning. Have you taken steps to ensure your company is ready to deal with unforeseen circumstances? Emergency Preparedness is a WorkSafeBC (formerly the Workers’ Compensation Board of BC) requirement for all workplaces in BC under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation.

Wayne Price, Director of Cranbrook Fire and Emergency Services, points out that organizations and businesses are at risk if they are not prepared.

“All businesses are a form of investment," he said, "and in the case of a lot of small businesses they are a livelihood, and disruption of a business or service can be severe. For some small businesses, emergency planning can be the difference between survival and failure.”

Business owners developing an emergency response plan should take into consideration what level of preparedness they are currently at, what measures are presently in place and what emergency situations could actually happen.

“Often the extent of emergency planning for some small businesses is limited to emergency or after-hours contact information,” Price said. “This level of planning has obviously not considered such things as types of threats or risk the business, building or the community may be subject to, action required or that can be taken in response to specific emergency type, service or product priorities, impacts of business disruption, potential revenue losses, additional expenses that may be incurred due to a disruption, intangible losses such as loss of competitiveness, damage to reputation, etc., and insurance conditions or ramifications.”

The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) lists wildfires, floods and hazardous materials events as the top three hazards for the East Kootenay area.

Loree Duczek, Emergency Programs information officer for RDEK, Loree Duczek said that over the past two years this area has seen first-hand the widespread effects of flooding and debris flows in communities that have impacted both businesses and individuals.

“Businesses can be affected directly by an emergency such as flooding" she said, "and can also be impacted indirectly when emergency situations cut off access to the business, causing a delay in the delivery of goods or services. For example, in 2013 we experienced fuel shortages when highways were closed and fuel trucks couldn’t access the Columbia Valley. (An emergency can also) cause people to stay away from a community, impacting tourism-based businesses.”

During an emergency, the RDEK encourages businesses to help out by following local media or emergency program updates to help ensure they are aware and have current information in case customers ask.

As well, businesses can post updates for the public.

Emergency readiness is a critical component to successfully managing a business and if a plan is not in place prior to the emergency, it is too late. Being prepared can include simple steps such as designating and practising evacuation routes and meeting places, having an emergency kit on site with supplies for up to 72 hours, developing a continuity plan to implement if business was not able to open or function due to an emergency, and making sure staff are aware of emergency numbers and any emergency plans.

For more information on WorkSafeBC’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulation go to the WorkSafeBC website at

Also check out these links:

Act Now! – A guide to help small businesses prepare and emergency response plan

Emergency Preparedness for Industry and Commerce Council

Kris Dickeson

Kris Dickeson grew up in Cranbrook and re-located to Victoria to pursue a career in media. She spent five years in radio news in several BC and Saskatchewan markets. In 2003, Kris moved back to the Kootenays, traded her microphone in for a pen and started freelance writing for several publications throughout the interior of BC. Kris believes everyone has a story to tell and she wants to help them find it and in turn share it with others. View all of Kris Dickeson’s articles

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