8-14-13 1:20 PM EDT | Email Article
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TORONTO, ONTARIO -- (Marketwired) -- 08/14/13 -- On the 10-year anniversary of a major power outage that hit Ontario and many U.S. states, BMO Bank of Montreal offers business owners five tips on developing an emergency or business contingency plan.

"Companies of all sizes are susceptible to having their operations affected because of power outages, severe weather, pandemics or other emergencies. It's important for all businesses to have contingency plans in place in order to cope with these kinds of eventualities," said Steve Murphy, Senior Vice President, Commercial Banking, BMO Bank of Montreal.

BMO Bank of Montreal offers steps to develop an effective business contingency plan.

1) Complete A Business Impact Analysis

Developing a contingency plan for your business starts with a complete understanding of the most critical functions of your company - those activities without which it ceases to operate. Examples could include: payroll, call centre, sales, IT, communications, distribution, shipping & receiving.

For each business activity, consider the importance of the work being done on the overall survival of the business, its impact on other activities and how quickly you would need its operation to be re-established. Identify the impacts of that function being disrupted over a series of time intervals - 24 hours, two days, a week, two weeks, etc.

The resources needed to restore operations represent the next essential component. What will you need and when? Consider the number of staff required - it is unlikely all staff will be needed immediately after an emergency. Questions to consider:

--  Could this business activity be completed by employees in a different
--  Do you have the computers, telecommunications, machinery/tools to allow
    them to work off-site? 
--  Do you have the customer and supplier contact information, along with
    files for work in progress, accessible in case of an emergency? 
--  Do you have the ability to contact all employees affected and keep them
    up to date on the status of operations? 

2) Assess Risks to Your Business

The likelihood your business will be affected by an unplanned event can vary, as can the impact on your business. Prioritizing the potential risks (fire, severe storm or flooding, power outage, pandemic, etc.) on the business as a whole, and on each of the critical functions, will allow you to develop plans to mitigate or minimize the impact on your business. For each potential risk, consider:

--  Any physical damage and disruption it may cause 
--  Financial costs of the disruption 
--  The employees affected by the event 
--  The impact on customers 

With a thorough assessment of potential risks, you can decide whether you need to accept the risk, or develop contingency plans in order to manage the potential disruption to your business operations.

3) Develop Your Emergency Plan

Your customized business contingency plan or continuity plan is a prioritized list of actions to take in the event of a problem that affects your business. It will include the assigning of key accountabilities to members of your business team. Examples of actions or responsibilities could include:

--  Launching emergency plan - gathering essential team members 
--  Liaising with emergency services 
--  Identifying business activities that have been disrupted 
--  Assessing damage/contact with insurance 
--  Providing information to staff 
--  Communications to customers 

4) Test Your Plan

Once you have completed a business contingency plan, it is important to ensure all employees understand how the plan will be used, how they will be impacted and how they will be kept informed in the event of an emergency. When you are comfortable that all employees and managers understand the plan, test it by acting out a scenario.

5) Keep Your Plan Up-to-Date

The best business contingency or continuity plans are those that are regularly reviewed and updated. On an annual basis, review the plan and conduct a test to ensure it continues to be relevant, up to date, and effective.

About BMO Financial Group

Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly diversified North American financial services organization. With total assets of $555 billion as at April 30, 2013, and more than 46,000 employees, BMO Financial Group provides a broad range of personal and commercial banking, wealth management and investment banking products and solutions.

Media Contacts:
Alexis Brown, Toronto
(416) 867-3996

Ronald Monet, Montreal
(514) 877-1873

Internet: www.bmo.com
Twitter: @BMOmedia

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