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Chambers take lead to help prepare businesses for the next big disaster

  • 13 October 2017
Chambers take lead to help prepare businesses for the next big disaster

In recent months, the world has been hit with an unprecedented number of hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires—each leaving behind devastating destruction and havoc in their wake. Observing the United Nation’s International Day for Disaster Reduction, we take a look at how chambers of commerce are working to raise awareness of the importance of disaster prevention and protection, and efforts to reduce the number of businesses adversely affected.

2017 International Day Disaster of Reduction
UN’s International Day of Disaster Reduction

Hard facts of disaster recovery

From the Atlantic hurricane Harvey to the on-going fires currently sweeping California, the severe damage caused by natural disasters have the potential to cripple businesses for days, weeks and even months, leaving economies to suffer. In fact, 75% of small businesses do not have a disaster contingency plan in place.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), almost 40% of small businesses never reopen their doors after a disaster—and if they do, 52% of owners say it would take at least three months to recover. While humanitarian protocols and frameworks exist almost everywhere around the world today, there are little to no guidelines in regard to the needs of business. So how are they supposed to weather the effects of these natural catastrophes and other emergency situations?

Chambers in action

Whether large or small, chambers exist in almost every country. They are the driving force behind the growth and economic prosperity of their respective communities. It is unsurprising that as vital pillars and the voice of their business communities, chambers are leading the way in providing swift and efficient support to ensure a safe and positive recovery.

In 2013, when massive floods swept through Calgary, Canada—one of the most costly disasters in the country’s history—the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and the Calgary Emergency Management Agency responded promptly with a powerful emergency preparedness initiative. As a result, more than 99% of local businesses were able to reopen and continue their activities. What is more, Calgary retained its reputation for being an entrepreneurial and innovative city–a good place to do business.

Adam Legge, president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce said: “Severe weather events are becoming more frequent and more serious in every area of the globe. Addressing humanitarian needs following these disasters is the first priority and the next must be to get businesses back up and running. Research shows that when the business community recovers quickly, society recovers quickly, as people have a place to shop, work and do business. The alternative can be serious.”

Reliable and effective guidance 

Two years later, the Calgary Chamber summited their initiative into the World Chambers Federation’s (WCF) World Chambers Competition going on to win the Best Unconventional Project following final presentations during the 9th World Chambers Congress in Torino, Italy. The Calgary Chamber’s story led to other chambers within the network wanting to know more about how, they too, could achieve the same success in the event of such destruction.

Today, with the help of WCF, the Calgary Chamber initiative has been further developed into an essential go-to resource, the Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery Guidedesigned to help chambers globally prepare for and respond to any kind of situation, man-made or natural disaster. From what chambers and businesses can do before disaster or emergency strikes, to how chambers should react in the immediate hours and days following an event to the role that chambers have in ensuring that businesses recover, this one-stop resource offers a series of templates, checklists and insight to enable chambers to take action, helping their communities to recover more quickly while building greater resilience.

Is your chamber prepared for whatever comes next?