Fire safety plans a key tool in your BCM toolbox

It’s Business Continuity Awareness Week (BCAW), an annual global event that aims to raise awareness of business continuity management practices. In light of recent events in Fort McMurray, it’s important to consider fire safety as part of your contingency plans.

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Fort McMurray is still recovering after being engulfed by wildfires fed by bone-dry conditions, prompting authorities to order the evacuation of about 80,000 people in the northern Alberta city. The blaze destroyed dozens of homes and businesses, but the full breadth of the destruction and economic impact to the community remains unclear.

Events such as these are a harsh reminder that all businesses must be prepared for the unexpected.

Provincial regulations such as Ontario’s Fire Code provide direction and governance in preparing a fire safety plan. This is a detailed document designed to deal with all aspects of fire safety related to a specific building or property. It’s intended to be a reference manual outlining routine fire safety practices and should be approved by your local fire department.

In some cases, the plan is owned by the landlord; in other cases, it falls under the jurisdiction of individual business owners. Regardless, all businesses — big and small — should be aware of how to minimize the threat of fire to people and critical infrastructure.

Loss prevention goes hand in hand with business continuity management. Planning efforts should include all forms of production or manufacturing infrastructure that deliver products and services to customers, as well as the technology and critical infrastructure that are essential to providing business continuity.

A fire safety plan should take into consideration the nature of the business, the availability of human resources, the fire safety features available within each facility and any operational processes that could create a fire hazard.

Like Fort McMurray, that could include potential exposure to wildfires from close proximity to wooded areas. In some cases, this might involve the construction of a firebreak (cutting trees, brush and grass) around all structures, particularly in muskeg or peat areas.

If done correctly, a specific response plan to the threat of fire can provide a reasonable degree of protection (though not guaranteed) for facilities supporting business continuity. Without a strategy in place, you risk losing continuity of service or the ability to restore service in a timely manner.

A plan needs to comply with your building code, municipal fire codes and all legislation related to fire prevention and response. It should include emergency procedures for all employees, the designation of staff to carry out fire safety duties, the training of supervisory staff and the holding of regular fire drills.

You can’t predict a disaster or emergency, but you can proactively prepare to mitigate or eliminate the risk of one.

As part of Business Continuity Awareness Week, The Disaster Recovery Information Exchange Toronto will be holding a number of seminars this week, from building a business case for business continuity planning to applying BCP to emergency services.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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