Guide to Disaster Planning and Recovery – Small business information, insight and resources | Fri, 17 Aug 2018 15:28:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ready Business Toolkits for Year-Round Disaster Planning | 2018 Tue, 31 Jul 2018 17:32:37 +0000

As we’ve stressed in numerous articles that are part of the Guide to Disaster Planning, preparing for disasters helps you avoid being among the 20%-60% businesses that don’t reopen after a disaster. 

Just think of the types of disasters that can occur.

  • Natural hazards like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcano eruptions, and earthquakes.
  • Health hazards such as widespread and serious illnesses like the flu.
  • Human-caused hazards including accidents and acts of violence.
  • Technology-related hazards like power outages and equipment failure.

After the 9/11 tragedy, U.S. Homeland Security and several other government agencies were tasked to develop Ready Business (, a program to help business leaders develop preparedness plans for their companies.

Below are links to specific types of disasters and ways to prepare and respond.

redding fire

Earthquake “QuakeSmart” Ready Business Toolkit

Unlike other natural disasters, earthquakes occur without warning and cannot be predicted. Most of the United States is at some risk for earthquakes, not just the West Coast, so it is important that you understand your risk, develop preparedness and mitigation plans, and take action.

Hurricane Ready Business Toolkit

Many parts of the United States, including Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas, Hawaii, parts of the Southwest, Puerto Rico, the Pacific Coast, and the U.S. Virgin Islands and territories in the Pacific may be directly affected by heavy rains, strong winds, wind-driven rain, coastal and inland floods, tornadoes, and coastal storm surges resulting from tropical storms and hurricanes. The Ready Business Hurricane Toolkit helps leaders take action to protect employees, protect customers, and help ensure business continuity as well.

Inland Flooding Ready Business Toolkit

Most of the United States is at some risk for flooding, so it is important that organizations, businesses, and community groups understand the potential impacts.

Power Outage Ready Business Toolkit

While a Power Outage may not seem as dangerous as a tornado or earthquake, they can still cause damage to homes, businesses and communities. Power Outages cost the U.S. economy $20 billion and $55 billion annually and continue to increase each year (CRS, 2012).

Severe Wind/Tornado Ready Business Toolkit

It is not just in Tornado Alley. Most of the United States is at some risk for severe wind and tornadoes

Links to additional Ready Business resources

Hurricane Harvey | Spencer Platt / GettyImages
Redding Fire | Terray Sylvester / GettyImages

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IRS Plans Disaster Webinar for Tax and Accounting Professionals | 2017 Mon, 16 Oct 2017 16:08:50 +0000

In response to recent natural disasters, the IRS is offering two webinars to tax professionals. These online events are designed to help tax professionals better understand tax relief for victims of disasters–for both individuals and businesses.

The web conferences cover:

  • Tax relief for individuals and businesses
  • Special rules for disaster areas
  • How disaster losses affect taxes
  • Calculating and reporting disaster area losses
  • Tax issues related to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria

Each session will also include a live question and answer session.

The IRS designed these webinars to help tax professionals with disaster-related issues.  Tax preparers receive a certificate of completion. They can also earn up to two continuing education credits for attending.  Use these links to register:

For more information about tax issues related to disasters, tax preparers and taxpayers can visit the Tax Relief in Disaster Situations page on

More Information:

Photos: istock

Small Business ‘Active Shooter’ Preparedness Resources From the Department of Homeland Security Mon, 02 Oct 2017 10:00:54 +0000

While it is something no small business owner or manager wants to believe can happen to them, events ranging from armed robberies to large-scale tragedies like the shootings in Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Orlando, and Las Vegas force every business manager to consider the unthinkable can happen anywhere.

In many cases, there is no pattern or method to the selection of victims by an active shooter. These situations are, by their very nature, unpredictable and evolve quickly. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offers free courses, materials, and workshops to better prepare businesses, schools, places of faith and any type of organization to deal with an active shooter situation and to raise awareness of behaviors that represent pre-incident indicators and characteristics of active shooters.

Active Shooter: What You Can Do

Homeland Security has developed an independent study course entitled Active Shooter: What You Can Do. This course was developed to provide the public with guidance on how to prepare for and respond to active shooter crisis situations.

Upon completion of Active Shooter: What You Can Do, employees and managers will be able to:

  • Describe the actions to take when confronted with an active shooter and to assist responding law enforcement officials
  • Recognize potential workplace violence indicators
  • Describe actions to take to prevent and prepare for potential active shooter incidents; and
  • Describe how to manage the consequences of an active shooter incident

The online training is available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency Emergency Management Institute.


A 90-minute Webinar can help small businesses and other organizations understand the importance of developing an emergency response plan and the need to train employees on how to respond if confronted with an active shooter. The presentation describes the three types of active shooters–workplace/school, criminal, and ideological–and how their planning cycles and behaviors differ.

Workshop Series

Active Shooter workshops have already taken place in a number of U.S. cities and will continue to be held in a number of locations in the future. These scenario-based workshops feature facilitated discussions to engage company professionals and law enforcement representatives from federal, state, and local agencies to learn how to prepare for, and respond to, an active shooter situation. Through the course of the exercise, participants evaluate current response concepts, plans, and capabilities for coordinated responses to active shooter incidents.

If you are interested in future workshops, contact

‘How to Respond’ Resource Materials

DHS has developed a series of materials to assist businesses, government offices, and schools in preparing for and responding to an active shooter. These products include a desk reference guide, a reference poster, and a pocket-size reference card.

Issues covered in the active shooter materials include the following:

  • Profile of an active shooter
  • Responding to an active shooter or other workplace violence situation
  • Training for an active shooter situation and creating an emergency action plan
  • Tips for recognizing signs of potential workplace violence

Available Materials for Download

‘Options for Consideration’ (Preparedness Video)

Options for Consideration (below) demonstrates possible actions to take if confronted with an active shooter scenario. The video also shows how to assist authorities once law enforcement enters the scene. 

via |  U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Hurricane Harvey Recovery Assistance For Small Businesses From the SBA | 2017 Fri, 01 Sep 2017 16:30:50 +0000

During a disaster like Hurricane Harvey and its massive flooding, the U.S. Small Business Administration becomes the hub agency for services targeting small business; even services beyond its primary role in lending. Because of its experience with loans and working with banks, it also takes on certain responsibilities beyond those related to small businesses. Here is a list related to Harvey disaster recovery (or any major declared disaster) where you can find links to such services.

First look over the information on this page to learn more about the various loans, grants and services that may be available to your business. Then take these following steps.

  • When you’re ready to think about next steps, start by contacting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for recovery assistance in the form of grants. Register for FEMA assistance at or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). 
  • For more information about SBA Disaster Loans, visit The SBA’s Customer Service Center is also available to provide assistance at 1-800-659-2955 or by e-mail at sends e-mail).`

Note: The SBA is providing an automatic 12-month deferment of principal and interest payments for SBA-serviced business and disaster loans that were in “regular servicing” status on August 25, 2017, in those primary counties designated as Federal disaster areas.   (Read more…Download Adobe Reader to read this link content)

Disaster recovery-assistance grants and SBA disaster loans

The SBA offers low-interest, long-term disaster loans to the following:

  • Small businesses of all sizes
  • Private non-profit organizations
  • Homeowners, and renters to repair or replace uninsured/underinsured disaster damaged property
    • Loan amounts and terms are set by SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.

The SBA will be alongside FEMA at Disaster and Business Recovery Centers, providing assistance to disaster survivors. At the centers, disaster survivors will be able to apply in person and get counseling on the next steps toward recovery.

 SBA Disaster Loan Program

SBA Disaster Loan Program FAQDownload Adobe Reader to read this link content

How to Apply for an SBA Disaster loan

Apply online, in-person at a disaster center, or by mail. A loan officer will determine your eligibility during processing, after reviewing any insurance or other recoveries. SBA can make a loan while your insurance recovery is pending.

  • As a business of any size, you may borrow up to $2 million for physical damage.
  • As a small business, small agricultural cooperative, small business engaged in aquaculture, or private non-profit organization you may borrow up to $2 million for Economic Injury.
  • As a small business, you may apply for a maximum business loan (physical and/or economic injury) of $2 million.
  • As a homeowner you may borrow up to $200,000 to repair/replace your disaster damaged primary residence.
  • As a homeowner or renter, you may borrow up to $40,000 to repair/replace damaged personal property.

For more information about SBA Disaster Loans, visit The SBA’s Customer Service Center is also available to provide assistance at 1-800-659-2955 or by e-mail at sends e-mail).


Business Owners Admit They Aren’t Prepared for Disasters, But Know They Should Be | 2017 Wed, 23 Aug 2017 14:23:50 +0000

In a newly released Nationwide Insurance survey of small business owners, over two-thirds of the participants said they believe it is critical that businesses prepare for cyberattacks, disasters, and unplanned succession. Despite that belief, a majority of those surveyed admitted they lack such preparation.

Small business disaster denial?

Most business owners say it’s important to plan for cyberattacks, natural disasters, and unplanned business succession. But the vast majority of owners report they don’t have formal plans in place, even as catastrophic weather events continue to rise and ransomware attacks become more common.

Cyber attacks

83 % | (Percentage of business) owners who say it’s important to establish security practices and policies to protect sensitive information50 percent say they have established security practices to protect sensitive information.
50%| Owners who say they actually have established such security practices and policies.


64% | Owners who say it’s important to create a preparedness program
23% | Owners who say they have actually created one.

Succession Plan

65% | Owners who say its important to choose a successor for their business
37 % | Owners who actually have a business succession plan in place.

“Small business owners often believe the myth that ‘it could never happen to me,'” said Mark Berven, president of property and casualty for Nationwide. ”



September is National Preparedness Month: Here Are 7 Ways to Immediately Ready Your Business for a Disaster | 2016 Tue, 06 Sep 2016 11:42:43 +0000

September is National Preparedness Month, an awareness program from the U.S. Homeland Security. As we’ve seen many small businesses hit by personal disasters like a fire and others by mass disasters like hurricanes, we are serious when we urge you to prepare for something you hope you’ll never encounter. The resources below, many developed through information supplied by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other governmental and non-governmental organizations, can help you develop a plan to protect your employees, lessen the financial impact of disasters, and re-open your business quickly to support economic recovery in your community.


Photo | Small businesses in Howard Beach, Queens, New York, during aftermath of Hurricane Sandy taken on 10/30/2012 by Pamela Andrade via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

Also on | Preparedness information on the WIKI
Also on | The Guide to Emergency Preparedness

This is a forest back burn or burn out lit by US Forest Service fire specialists. Very few of these trees died and it was generally healthy for the forest. River Complex Fire, Trinity County, California, 2015.


7 Things to do Immediately to Prepare Your Business for a Disaster

1 Create | A preparedness program for your business (outlined in next section)
2 Identify | Critical business systems [PDF]
3 Prepare | An emergency communications plan [PDF]
4 Test | Your business systems
5 Enroll | In the Red Cross Ready Rating Program
6 Build | A disaster preparedness kit
7 Review |’s Guide to Emergency Preparedness

Three rescue workers talking by rescue vehicle (selective focus)


Homeland Security’s outline for a preparedness program for your business

Businesses can do much to prepare for the impact of the many hazards they face in today’s world including natural hazards like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and widespread serious illness. Human-caused hazards include accidents, acts of violence by people and acts of terrorism. Examples of technology-related hazards are the failure or malfunction of systems, equipment or software. has developed the following online tools that utilize an “all hazards approach” and follows the program elements within National Fire Protection Association 1600. (NFPA 1600 is an American National Standard and has been adopted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.)

The five steps in developing a preparedness program are Program Management, Planning, Implementation, Testing and Exercises, and Program Improvement. The links accompanying each step will take you to related information and tools at

1 | Program Management

  • Organize, develop and administer your preparedness program
  • Identify regulations that establish minimum requirements for your program

Learn more about Program Management here.

2 | Planning

  • Gather information about hazards and assess risks
  • Conduct a business impact analysis (BIA)
  • Examine ways to prevent hazards and reduce risks

Learn more about Planning here.

3 | Implementation

Write a preparedness plan addressing

  • Resource management
  • Emergency response
  • Crisis communications
  • Business continuity
  • Information technology
  • Employee assistance
  • Incident management
  • Training

Learn more about Implemenation here.

4 | Testing And Exercises

  • Test and evaluate your plan
  • Define different types of exercises
  • Learn how to conduct exercises
  • Use exercise results to evaluate the effectiveness of the plan

Find more information on Testing and Exercises here.

5 | Program Improvement

  • Identify when the preparedness program needs to be reviewed
  • Discover methods to evaluate the preparedness program
  • Utilize the review to make necessary changes and plan improvements

Find more information on Program Improvement here.

Flood damaged holiday decorations and decor in a pile waiting for disposal outside of a craft shop in Denham Springs, La.  (Photo by J.T. Blatty/FEMA)

Flood damaged holiday decorations and decor in a pile waiting for disposal outside of a craft shop in Denham Springs, La.  (Photo by J.T. Blatty/FEMA)

Disaster Information in Specific Situations


Winter Weather





Cyber Security

Workplace Hazards & First Aid

The FEMA App is a Must-Have Tool For Every Small Business Mon, 27 Jun 2016 12:16:22 +0000

Disasters come in many forms and sizes. And they come no matter what the season. Currently, there are major floods and major fires impacting small businesses in different parts of the U.S.

While you can’t change the weather, you can prepare for it and other types of emergencies. One way is to download the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) app for your smartphone or tablet device. (Links to the apps below.)

FEMA App features

  • Alerts from the National Weather Service | Receive severe weather alerts for up to five locations across the U.S. and see information about how to stay safe.
  • Disaster Reporter | Upload and share photos of damage and recovery efforts.
  • Maps of disaster resources | Locate and receive driving directions to open shelters and disaster recovery centers.
  • Apply for assistance | Easily access to apply for federal disaster assistance.
  • Custom emergency safety information | Save a custom list of the items in your family’s emergency kit, as well as the places you will meet in case of an emergency.
  • Safety tips | Receive safety and preparedness reminders and learn how to stay safe before, during, and after over 20 types of hazards, including floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes.
  • Information in Spanish | Easily toggle between English and Spanish for all features of the app.

Promotional video via

Download app



Small Business Information and Resources for Extreme Winter Weather Fri, 22 Jan 2016 17:36:40 +0000

At, we know how the weather can impact small businesses in many ways. For instance, the day we shared this, a huge section of the eastern U.S. is covered (or about to be) in a major blanket of snow. Here are some places to find answers to snow and winter weather questions — and resources for when that weather turns into a disaster for businesses — thanks to the U.S. National Weather Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Homeland Security.

National Weather Service Winter Resources

A helpful landing page that leads to a wide range of information about winter weather, including answers to basic questions like, “What’s a blizzard?” Here’s a list of other snow-related phenomena:

  • Blizzard: Sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 mph or more with snow and blowing snow frequently reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile for 3 hours or more.
  • Blowing Snow: Wind-driven snow that reduces visibility. Blowing snow may be falling snow and/or snow on the ground picked up by the wind.
  • Snow Squalls: Brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds. Accumulation may be significant.
  • Snow Showers: Snow falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible.
  • Flurries: Light snow falling for short durations with little or no accumulation.
  • Avalanche: A mass of tumbling snow. More than 80 percent of midwinter avalanches are triggered by a rapid accumulation of snow and 90 percent of those avalanches occur within 24 hours of snowfall. An avalanche may reach a mass of a million tons and travel at speeds up to 200 mph.

National Weather Service Snow Analysis


Serious data for those who are really into snow. Of course, there are lots of small businesses that depend on such snow analysis for their work, so understanding snow is a major issue for lots of businesses in agriculture, recreation, construction and many other fields.

Winter weather emergency preparedness

The National Weather Service refers to winter storms as the Deceptive Killers because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm. Instead, people die in traffic accidents on icy roads and of hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold. From, here are resources for how to prepare your family, yourself and your business for winter weather before it strikes.

Weather Prediction Center


While there are unlimited sources for weather predictions, the vast majority of data used to make those predictions comes from the National Weather Service. Here is a landing page that can point you to dozens of different ways that will help you talk about the weather, but none that allows anyone to change it. (Yet.)

Photos, maps: NOAA, NWS
Video via YouTube

Why You Need Key Person Insurance for Your Small Business Mon, 28 Sep 2015 17:25:43 +0000

It’s perhaps the last thing a person who owns a business wants to consider, but it’s among one of the most important: What happens if the owner or other key player in the business dies? Could their family navigate the first few months without them? Would their employees be able to continue in the owner’s absence? One way to address this risk is a special type of insurance called “key person insurance.”

Standard types of disability and life insurance policies typically are purchased to make sure the family of an individual is protected if something happens to the person covered .

Key person insurance is purchased to protect the business if the owner or other key leaders die. Who are key people? Anyone whose death would leave a major void in the company’s day-to-day operations.

Key person life insurance is a type of policy that can protect a business from the financial dip that can occur if there’s an unexpected loss of an owner, manager or partner.

Reasons why you need key person insurance:

Cover lost revenue

If you or another manager in your business are the only people who know how to perform a certain task in the business, then key person insurance is critical. During the time immediately following an unexpected loss, key person insurance will kick in to help cover expenses while the business regroups.

Pay off loans

Lenders may consider calling a loan if a key person in a business dies. If that happens, the insurance would help pay off any balance.

Key person insurance overview:

  • The amount of coverage should be based on how much money you’d need to cover your business during the period of time it will take to replace the key person.
  • Get quotes on different amounts, perhaps from $100,000 up.
  • Balance budget constraints with how much the company would need to survive while bringing a new person up to speed.
  • The business typically pays annual premiums and is the beneficiary under the policy. If a key person unexpectedly dies, the company would receive the insurance payoff.
  • Some businesses offer to distribute part of the pay out with the key person’s spouse as a benefit of employment. (Note: Discuss such a life insurance policy with the employee before setting it up as it may appear that your business is trying to benefit from the death of an employee. There are other types of benefit-related life insurance policies that may be a better option.)
  • Typically, the insurance is a term policy for a specific amount and length of time.
  • As with any important financial or legal decision, seek advice from your trusted business advisors as specific strategies will hinge on your personal situation.
Recalling the Role of Local Restauranteurs in Rebuilding New Orleans Tue, 08 Sep 2015 15:51:53 +0000

We have used the tenth anniversary of Katrina, the most expensive natural disaster in the history of the U.S., to review the need for small businesses to prepare for disaster and recovery. Such a series would not be complete without recalling the role in the city’s recovery of some of its most famous small businesses, its chef-owned restaurants. To help us recall that story, we called on an expert on the topic, business magazine publisher (and our friend) Romney Richard. A decade ago, one of the magazines Romney and her husband owned (but have since sold) was Louisiana Cookin’, a go-to magazine for keeping up with the restaurant scene in New Orleans and Louisiana. The couple’s home and office were both flooded and their staff was dispersed to five states. Even though it took them until November to get the green light to return to New Orleans, the magazine continued to be published and Romney and her staff were able to continue sharing the culinary talent of New Orleans’ chefs. But they also had another story to share: the story of how these New Orleans chefs took the lead in letting the world know that the city wouldn’t take long before it would be open for business—and pleasure. The following are recollections Romney shared with us.

Although the French Quarter was not affected by the floodwaters that came after Katrina, the restaurants there were without electricity, gas and water. The whole city was devastated and these types of services had to to be rebuilt. So without power, gas or water, all of the stored food, temperature-sensitive wines—literally everything perishable—was lost.

But even if those services had been available, it wouldn’t have mattered, because no one was in the city after the first few days. The city was closed until all the water was pumped out, and that took about three weeks. Once the water was removed the military, police, firemen and others started working to stabilize New Orleans.

Some of the most inspiring stories involving local chefs is how several of them, even before getting power back, were doing all they could to feed the early disaster relief professionals. Chefs and restaurateurs like John Besh and Drago’s started grilling outside and feeding the first responders.

Even when we returned and started rebuilding toward the end of November, there were only a few restaurants open. But I do recall how wonderful it was to have a Christmas Brunch at the Windsor Court Hotel restaurant. The group we went with had all spent weeks covered with dirt, sheet rock dust and paint from rebuilding our homes. So to get dressed up and have a great dining experience was fabulous.

Most business owners—not just restaurant owners, but all of the great small shops the city is known for—were not only rebuilding our homes but our businesses, too. It was a very challenging time.

“Today, through perseverance, hard work and believing in this city as a great culinary destination, there are more restaurants open now than before Katrina.” – Romney Richard

One more thing: If you’ve never been to New Orleans, please visit. Come enjoy our music, culture and the best restaurants in the world.