COVID-19 and Business Continuity

Half of businesses have increased priority on disaster preparedness since the start of COVID-19

Pandemic, communications failure, winter storms and flooding top list of business interruptions over past five years

(MISSISSAUGA, Ontario, May 17, 2021) – FIRST ONSITE Property Restoration today released a survey of Canadian businesses that takes the pulse of how they prioritize emergency preparedness. Taken during the peak of the pandemic, the survey reveals that more than half of businesses (52%) have placed an increased priority on disaster preparedness since the start of COVID-19. Although managers have realized the importance of preparedness and planning for business continuity, only two-in-five businesses are very confident that their company is prepared to deal with future emergencies or disasters.

First Onsite, a company that has responded to some of the biggest catastrophic events across Canada over recent years, surveyed managers, owners, executives, and employees at 500 companies to find out what types of disasters they had encountered, and the level of preparedness they felt they had in place.

Four-in-five Canadian business have been interrupted for one of several reasons over the past five years. Of those who have experienced interruptions, the pandemic leads the way:

  • 77 per cent of business interruptions over the past five years have taken place due to the pandemic
  • 45 per cent of interruptions have taken place due to communication outages (server down, telco outage, etc.)
  • 43 per cent have taken place due to winter storms
  • 23 per cent due to flooding (13% mechanical and 10% natural)
  • One-in-five have taken place due to windstorms/hurricanes/tornados/tropical storms
  • 12 per cent due to fires (8% wildfires and 4% structural fires)
  • Just one per cent have taken place due to earthquakes
  • One-in-five businesses have not been interrupted or have not been aware of any interruptions

Surveyed during the third wave of the pandemic and lockdowns, the study found only 37 per cent of businesses feel fully prepared to deal with future emergencies or disasters. Meanwhile, one-in-10 feel this isn’t an urgent concern, seven per cent feel they are not investing the appropriate amount, five per cent have been putting this off due to resource constraints and three per cent are unprepared or don’t know enough about the topic.

“Major incidents can include anything from wildfires to full-scale floods, ice storms and hurricanes. However, it doesn’t have to be weather related to take a business offline as we have seen through the pandemic lockdowns,” said Bill Fender, SVP Commercial Property Portfolios, at First Onsite Property Restoration. “Businesses in all industries are faced with a unique challenge – hibernating commercial facilities that are left vacant and unattended. This is a new problem that business owners and property managers haven’t faced on this scale before.”


Pandemics are the biggest future threat

When respondents were asked which types of future disasters they were concerned about affecting their business, pandemics again took the lead:

  • 75 per cent of businesses were concerned about pandemics affecting their business
  • 72 per cent were concerned about communication outages
  • 56 per cent were concerned about winter storms
  • 44 per cent were concerned about structural fires
  • 35 per cent per cent were concerned about windstorms/hurricanes/tornados/tropical storms
  • 33 per cent were concerned about mechanical flooding
  • 30 per cent were concerned about natural flooding
  • 17 per cent were concerned about wildfires
  • 17 per cent were concerned about earthquakes


Proactive planning for business continuity

To understand how businesses prepare, the poll asked how often disaster recovery plans are tested, and only 46 per cent of businesses test/review it at least once a year. Twelve per cent of businesses never test/review their plan and eight per cent do not have a disaster recovery plan at all.

Twenty-eight per cent of businesses have a preferred disaster response restoration partner already in place. The top three services they value most from a disaster response/restoration company are speed of response (47%), knowledge and specialization (39%), and “gets my business back online, avoiding long-term disruption” (36%).

“For the businesses that don’t have a restoration provider in place, this should be the next step in their emergency planning to ensure business continuity,” said Fender. “Disaster plans, once only required for government, are now being insisted upon by corporate boards, , bond rating agencies, investors, insurers and customers.  Once plans are in place, it’s critical to test them on a  regular basis.”


Emergency response planning

Emergencies can strike without warning. First Onsite’s Priority Response Emergency Plan (PREP) can accelerate a company’s recovery through preparedness planning, rapid response, specialist mitigation and business continuity.
“It’s critical for property restoration specialists to understand the client’s infrastructure. That way, when a fire or flood happens, we already know the company’s needs and can be on site immediately to begin remediation, leading to a quicker recovery and minimized disruption” said Fender. “We have seen firsthand how businesses that plan ahead are much more resilient and functioning more quickly after facing a disaster than those that have no restoration partner in place, nor planning for how to respond to an unforeseen emergency.”


About the 2021 Business Preparedness Survey – commissioned by First Onsite

From March 12 to March 14, 2021, an online survey was conducted among a representative sample of 509 Canadian businesses who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, the sample plan would carry a margin of error of +/- 4.4%, 19 times out of 20 (a 95% confidence interval). For full survey result tables, please contact Dana Sharman – -705-878-6493.

About First Onsite: North America’s Trusted Leader in Property Restoration

First Onsite Property Restoration is one of the largest independent North American disaster restoration services providers, providing emergency preparedness, remediation, restoration, and reconstruction services across Canada, the U.S., including Puerto Rico. First Onsite offers more than 2,200 employees, 80-plus branches and a combined 70-plus years of industry-leading experience and specialization with a commitment to customer service. First Onsite proudly serves the commercial, municipal, industrial, and residential sectors. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of FirstService Corporation.

Press Contacts:

Dana Sharman
MAVERICK for First Onsite

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