3 Steps Businesses Can Take to Survive Disasters

When disasters like hurricanes strike, affected businesses sometimes never reopen. NHSI and FEMA have resources that can help businesses prepare to survive disasters.


The National Hurricane Survival Initiative encourages businesses to partake in emergency planning because 40 percent of small businesses that close due to hurricane disaster do not reopen. In order to prevent your communities’ businesses from becoming a statistic, the NHSI encourages creating a Business Survival Plan during the annual National Hurricane Preparedness week that happens in the second week of May.

The initiative guides businesses to address employee safety and property, as well as company information. A Business Survival Plan is a tool that can serve in most types of disasters, but the agency also encourages reviewing the plan before the annual hurricane season begins.

The Business Survival Plan includes the following three key steps.

Step 1: Protect Property

  • Invest in and install shutters or plywood in order to protect windows and doors from wind borne-debris.
  • Have the roof of your building evaluated to ensure it can withstand a storm.
  • Remove any branches or trees adjacent to your building that could potentially fall and damage it.
  • Sandbag any area that is subject to flooding.
  • Anchor and brace any large furniture (bookcases, shelves, filing cabinets) to wall studs.
  • Relocate any valuable or fragile possessions.
  • Secure all utilities including water heaters, gas tanks and heaters and if necessary, raise them to higher locations to avoid water damages.
  • Secure electronics such as computers and other office equipment with straps or Velcro.
  • Turn off all the utilities prior to a hurricane making landfall if possible.

Step 2: Protect Important Information

  • Designate important contacts to save that are crucial to business operations, such as employees, banks, lawyers, accountants, suppliers, etc.
  • Back-up paper documents that are not easily produced such as insurance documents, legal contracts, tax returns and accounting statements to avoid water damage.
  • Seal these documents in waterproof containers onsite.
  • Save all your designated contacts and documents in an alternate, accessible off-site location.

Step 3: Keep a Preparedness Checklist

The below items should be gathered in one location at your place of business should a storm hit while you are on premises. This will help protect the safety of your employees should disaster strike during regular working hours and without ample notice.

  • Battery operated radio or television
  • Non-perishable three day food supply for you and your employees
  • Three day supply of water for you and your employees (One gallon of water per person, per day)
  • Coolers and containers for water and washing
  • Blankets, pillows, cots and chairs
  • First Aid Kit and first aid manual
  • Flashlights, batteries, light-sticks
  • Tool kit (basic tools, gloves, etc.)
  • Camera and film for documenting damages
  • Whistle/signal flare to signal for help
  • Tarps, plastic bags, duct tape
  • Cleaning supplies, including mops, towels and garbage cans
  • Smoke alarms and fire extinguishers
  • Electric generator
  • Gas for vehicles, generators and other equipment
  • Cash, ATM cards, credit cards proper identification
  • Emergency contact information such as the nearest hospital and police, along with:
    • 9-1-1
    • Small Business Administration: 1-800-359-2227
    • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Tele-registration hot-line: 1-800-462-9029
    • Insurance company and agent’s contact information

NHSI also advises on choosing and communicating to employees a back-up operations location if damage occurs.

Access the original business disaster survival checklist on the NHSI website.

Review and download FEMA’s business survival plan guidance, with recommendations that reflect the Emergency Preparedness and Business Continuity Standard (NFPA 1600) developed by the National Fire Protection Association and endorsed by the American National Standards Institute and the Department of Homeland Security:

Business Booklet 12pg 2014 by Ed Praetorian on Scribd

Review and download FEMA’s Private Sector Preparedness Program’s Business Protections Toolkit:

FEMA PS-Prep Toolkit by Ed Praetorian on Scribd

Andrea Fox is Editor of Gov1.com and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.

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