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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

Preparing a Business Continuity Plan

‘Business continuity’ means ensuring that essential business functions can survive a natural disaster, technological failure, human error, or other disruption. A pandemic demands a different set of continuity assumptions since it will be widely dispersed geographically and potentially arrive in waves that could last several months at a time.

What should be considered in a business continuity plan? The questions below will guide you in preparing your plan or taking the right action as a pandemic unfolds.

Business Continuity Plan Development

  • Who has responsibility for activating the business continuity plan for your organization and who is that person’s backup?
  • What is the process through which the decision will be made to activate and terminate the plan? (e.g. what triggers the plan and/or elements of the plan?)
  • Do you have a communications strategy for reaching employees, clients, and supply chain partners as a result of having to implement any section of the plan?
  • Who do you need input from both internally and externally to prepare and review a business continuity plan for your organization?
    • Elected officials
    • Legal counsel
    • Community partners
    • Labour unions and bargaining agents
  • Who is in charge in the event of a pandemic episode and are the roles of the various stakeholders clearly defined? Who makes what decisions? Who notifies the various stakeholders?
  • Is your pandemic plan integrated with your existing emergency preparedness plan(s)?
  • Who needs to approve the plan?
  • How will you test and/or evaluate your plan?
  • Do you have a mechanism to periodically review and update your plan?

Decision-making and Reporting

  • Who will be in charge and make decisions within your business concerning services during a pandemic/emergency episode?
  • What will be the mechanism for regular reporting to your management staff/Boards/Government (whichever are appropriate for your organization) councils during a pandemic episode?
  • Is there a contact list of all internal and external client and partner agencies, supply chain partners and stakeholders?
  • Is there a contact list of all senior staff within your business?
  • If public transportation became a problem, can employees arrange alternate forms of transportation to work?
  • If necessary, could staff live at the work location or alternative work location for some period of time?
  • Have you prepared site-specific notification for office closures and contacts for the public/clients?
  • Does your business have a responsibility for the provision of services to the community during an emergency?
    • Provision of food or other supplies
    • Mass housing
    • Care for special needs people
    • Home care and childcare
  • Have these services been planned for should there be a staff reduction due to absence?
  • Who has signing authority for expenditures during an emergency and who is that person’s back up?
  • Are there clearly stated policies and procedures that cover signing authority and acquisitions?
  • What is the staff capacity of your business and are there provisions to bring in additional staff and/or volunteers?
  • Have alternative service providers been identified to assist with maintaining your essential services? What duties will they have and what additional training will they require? Have insurance coverage and union issues been addressed?
  • What is the surge capacity of services delivered by your business?

Materials Management

  • Are you currently stocked with all necessary supplies for regular day-to-day functions?
  • Does your business have contact lists for all your suppliers and alternate suppliers?
  • Does your business have access to inventory (including serial numbers) of all computer equipment, printers, mobile phones, photocopy machines, etc. in case repairs are needed?
  • Does your business have contact lists for all equipment repair persons?
  • Who authorizes repairs and supply/equipment orders? Are there other employees who can take over this responsibility in the event of an emergency?
  • Has an inventory been prepared for specialized equipment/facilities that may be needed during a pandemic episode?
  • Is there a mechanism that will ensure that additional equipment, e.g., mobile phones, broadband internet capacity, etc. can be obtained with minimum delay?
  • Who has authority for ordering repair/replacement equipment and who is that person’s back up?


  • What are the training needs pertaining to emergency and pandemic flu contingency plans for internal and external business partners/agencies? What additional training will be required?
  • What orientation/education should be arranged for your employees to raise awareness about a pandemic emergency?
  • Has staff been made aware of basic infection control guidelines to prevent the transmission of COVID-19?

Delivery of Services

  • Have services in your business been prioritized to take into account minor to major staff absences due to illness?
  • What is the role of your business with respect to assisting with service demands in health care facilities (i.e. hospitals, long-term care facilities, homes for special care) and has this plan been communicated to these facilities?
  • Who will make decisions about reducing levels of service and/or cancelling services temporarily?
  • Is there a pre-approval process in place for purchasing additional supplies?
  • If not, how long does it take for approval to be granted?
  • How will reduction/temporary cancellation of regular services be communicated to local clients, stakeholders, supply chain partners, the public and business partners?
  • Could any of the business’s services be provided from another work location?
  • Have sites providing vulnerable services (such as long-term care homes, homes for special care) been identified and has the inventory of such services been shared with appropriate service providers?
    • Patient transportation
    • Patient assessment services
    • Food services
    • Equipment supply services (i.e. oxygen equipment)
  • Has your business developed a list of skills and professional competencies of staff that are transferable to other business units, agency functions or for support to health care institutions in the community?
  • Have support services been planned for workers, such as transportation, day-care, meals and grief counselling?
  • Do you have a plan to replenish depleted supplies?

Human Resources

  • Who in your organization has responsibility for collecting/ managing information about staff absenteeism? Who is that person’s back up?
  • Do you have data on the average number of staff absences due to illness and vacation at different times of the year (monthly rates)?
  • Is there a mechanism within your business to monitor and report increasing staff absenteeism due to illness to health authorities (e.g., Health and Safety Coordinator, Health Department)? An increase in staff absenteeism due to illness might be attributed to the spread of infections among co-workers suggesting an outbreak of disease.
  • Is there flexibility in your absenteeism policies to address heightened absenteeism as a result of an outbreak, which will not negatively impact employees?
  • Do you have policies or procedures to address your employees’ psychological impacts resulting from an outbreak?
  • Do you have policies or procedures to accommodate your employees’ family obligations during an outbreak?
  • Has your agency prepared an inventory of skills in the event that people from your business are required to perform duties/ functions in other business units/agencies to maintain essential services?
  • Have liability issues been addressed for volunteers and reassigned staff members?
  • Do you have a current list of staff complete with telephone numbers and emergency contact information? Has someone been assigned responsibility to ensure that it remains current?
  • Do you have a current list of recently retired staff (complete with telephone numbers) who may be contacted in the event of extreme staff shortages?
  • Do relevant employees have access to a list of all employees and relevant stakeholders?
  • Is there a copy of the Health and Safety manual on site in your business?
  • Who will be in charge of communicating to the employees in your business? Do you have backup person(s) to take on this responsibility? How will employees be contacted?
  • Who will represent your business on community emergency response team(s), if requested to participate, and are there back-ups to those persons?
  • Who will be responsible for payment issues related to overtime and/or additional salary issues? Are there staff designated as backup for these positions?
  • In the event of a staff shortage, what roles/responsibilities could external contract workers and volunteers fill? What roles/responsibilities could co-workers fill?
  • Who has the authority to hire contract/temporary workers and to take on volunteers? Is there a backup person for this job?
  • Does your business have a system staff use to report absences due to illness and other reasons? Is this information accessible daily?
  • How will you manage staff who have a higher health risk if exposed to COVID-19?


  • Has your business developed appropriate record keeping procedures for items such as:
    • Staff absences
    • Vacation
    • Complaints and issues
  • Do you have a plan to record significant decisions that were made during a pandemic?
  • Is regular reporting to boards/government required?
  • Have you safeguarded copies of your company’s essential corporate records, such as:
    • Constitution, bylaws, charters, franchises and orders-in-council
    • Accounts payable and receivable
    • Bank and audit records
    • Capital and fixed assets records
    • Contracts and agreements
    • Licenses and permits
    • Leases, deeds, property and land files
    • Blueprints and technical drawings
    • Inventories
    • Mailing lists
    • Organization charts
    • Financial signing authorities
    • Union agreements
    • Software
    • Supplier listing
    • Insurance policies
    • Procedural manuals
    • Personnel records, payroll documents, pension fund files, salary deduction lists
    • Annual reports
    • Research, technical data and specifications on specialized projects
    • Special agreements with clients
    • Sales records and guarantees


  • Have you developed internal and external pandemic communications plans? (see here for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s adapted crisis communication plan)
  • In your organization, who has primary responsibility for communicating with the public/business partners/supply chain partners/staff? Who is that person’s back up if this person is ill?
  • Are there people in your organization who have sole access to incoming information, e.g., business information, incidence reports, complaints etc.? If so, have you arranged for designates to receive this information?
  • Does your organization maintain a central inventory of passwords to office equipment and electronic files? Is there a designate for the person who has responsibility for the inventory?
  • If your information technology lead is ill, to whom can you turn if you experience computer problems?
  • How does your staff communicate with each other during office hours and after-office hours? Is there an alternate form of communication they can rely on?
  • Who are your security contacts should there be a problem with physical access to your work location and is there a back up to your security contacts?
  • If mail service is interrupted, are there critical items you need to receive or deliver that you will need alternative arrangements for?
  • Does your organization send out time-sensitive letters or documents and is there a back-up system for these?
  • How are courier packages generally received and sent out?
  • How will you send out public service announcements and news releases?
  • Will employees and the public be able to access a website or telephone number to get updates on service delivery news?


  • What are the immediate lessons learned?
  • Who will have the authority to notify the various employees, clients, and stakeholders regarding reinstating services and finally return to full service?
  • Who will be responsible for evaluating your local response?
  • What factors should be examined as part of the evaluation?
  • Have any health (including mental health) needs for staff been provided for?

This list may seem overwhelming. To help get you started, BDC has created business continuity plan templates, which can be found here.

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