Ontario Chamber of Commerce

Ontario Chamber of Commerce

September 30, 2009 08:00 ET

Few Businesses Are Ready for Possible Pandemic: Study

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 30, 2009) - While a majority of businesses believe the threat of a pandemic is real, few are prepared with an emergency contingency plan.

In a survey conducted in the first two weeks of September by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), almost 60 percent of those surveyed believe the threat of a pandemic is real. Yet only about 22 percent of respondents have an emergency plan in place with another 27 percent who say they are working on developing one. These results do not show a significant change from a similar survey conducted by the OCC in 2005 when less than 50 percent of those surveyed had a pandemic plan in place to protect their operations from any possible business disruption.

"Despite the daily reminders that H1N1 may result in widespread illness this fall, and the experience of the SARS epidemic of 2003 still fresh in our minds, most businesses are not fully prepared with a business continuity plan," says Len Crispino, President & CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. "Of course we hope that our worst fears will not be realized, but it is prudent planning to prepare for the worst so that the impacts on our individual firms and the economy in general, are more moderate."

The OCC created a Pandemic Planning Toolkit in 2008 and is rereleasing the kit now in light of the concerns surrounding H1N1. Distributed through the Ontario network of chambers of commerce and boards of trade, the toolkit helps businesses understand some of the key questions to ask in order to develop a business continuity plan for any emergency.

A pandemic is expected to affect businesses in a number of ways, one of which is increased absenteeism. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, up to 50 percent of staff could be absent due to illness or because they are caring for relatives. In addition, a pandemic may cause disruptions to financial services, transportation, energy supply and border movements. The SARS epidemic, though not a full pandemic, is estimated to have cost the Ontario economy millions of dollars.

"Thinking in advance about how an organization might be affected, and how vital operations can be maintained in a diminished but manageable capacity in this environment, will help protect the survival of the company and protect jobs which are vitally needed in Ontario," adds Crispino. "It just makes good sense to have a plan in place for any kind of an emergency."

According to the latest survey, many business owners are still unsure how to develop a plan. About 40 percent of those surveyed who do not currently have a plan in place but intend to create one, do not know how to go about it. The OCC's Pandemic Planning Toolkit can aid in the planning process and is available at www.occ.on.ca.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) is a federation of 160 local chambers of commerce and boards of trade in the Province of Ontario, representing 60,000 businesses of all sizes, in all economic sectors and from every area of the province. In its mandate to advocate strong policies on issues affecting its members, the OCC is currently focused on economic renewal and business competitiveness. Its over-arching goal is to make Ontario the most competitive jurisdiction in North America.

Contact Information

  • Ontario Chamber of Commerce
    Erin Riach
    Communications Assistant
    (416) 482-5222, ext. 248