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Don’t have a business continuity plan? Start working on it today

As floodwater begins to recede in Calgary, firms with solid plans haven't missed a beat

By Todd Humber

The day you need business continuity planning isn’t the day to start thinking about implementing a program.

In the wake of devastating flood waters that hit Calgary and parts of southern Alberta, many organizations in Wild Rose Country have had to flip the switch on their continuity plans to ensure operations continue on as close to normal as possible.

That’s not easy, given the scope of the damage. How bad is the flooding? One need look no further than the city’s iconic Saddledome, home of the Calgary Flames, which filled with water like a giant bathtub up to row 10.

According to estimates from the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, somewhere between 150,000 and 180,000 people work in the city’s downtown core, and the city has a $120-million a day economy. That’s a huge number of displaced employees with a giant price tag, and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says it will likely be mid-week before most employees can return downtown. It’s hard to imagine the city returning to business as usual this week at all.

But, by all accounts, the major energy companies — responsible for a good chunk of the city’s economic output — are coping. The credit for that lies with solid business continuity planning, which is an exercise every organization, of every size, must do.

What employers can do

Stephen Ewart, the energy and economics editor at the Calgary Herald, said “with employees connected electronically with laptops, BlackBerrys and iPads, big name oil and gas companies should barely skip a beat in the next week. Regardless of the logistical challenges, it really isn’t an option for them not to be up and running. For starters, their field operations go 24/7 and when trading begins on the Toronto Stock Exchange at 7:30 a.m. Calgary time… all the public companies are definitely open for business.”

Pius Rolheiser, a spokesperson for Imperial Oil, told the Herald that most of their employees have laptops, BlackBerrys or iPads.

“We’re optimistic that we can maintain our operations,” he said. “We’ll do the best we can to make sure people can do their work as easily as possible without having to come into the downtown core.”

Firms with multiple locations have moved operations to drier ground. The business continuity team at Cenovus is working out of a facility in the suburbs, and employees who urgently need a desktop can work from there, spokeswoman Rhona DelFrari told the Herald.

Natural disasters aren’t the only events that can benefit from good business continuity planning. In 2010, firms in downtown Toronto braced for the worst when the G20 summit rolled into the core.

With a planned event like that, employers have the luxury of time to brainstorm ideas that can work. RBC, for example, made plans to have a few people as possible working in downtown Toronto during the G20, which was rocked by violent protests.

Managers with staff downtown were given ideas on how to “think creatively” and assign work to people that could be done at home, Teri Monti, director of employee relations at RBC, told Canadian HR Reporter.

RBC even established a G20 intranet site, posted a series of Q&As and provided a hotline for workers.

Wildcat strikes are another man-made disaster where solid business continuity plans will help. If employees hit the picket lines unexpectedly, or if your business is the target of secondary picketing, a well-designed plan that allows for transportation of workers and supplies, plus a good PR strategy, can help defuse the situation.

Webinar on business continuity planning

Canadian HR Reporter recently put together a special webinar, featuring Ann Wyganowski of HZX Business Continuity Planning, on what HR can do to put together a solid plan.

The webinar is available on-demand for $69. See for more information.

Other articles from the archives

Employers brace for G20
Firms in downtown Toronto launch contingency plans to deal with security zone, protests

Taming a wildcat strike
Having a plan allows employers to react quickly, effectively when disputes arise

Disconnect between employers, employees preparing for Olympics
80 per cent of employers claim to have adequate plans: Survey

Losing a human resource: The worst case scenario
Is your company prepared to react if a worker on assignment goes missing?

Employers prepare for the worst
Outbreak of swine flu sees organizations reviewing pandemic plan and boosting communication with employees

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. For more information, visit He can be reached at

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Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
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