Disaster stock photo
October 3, 2018

Aid, Assist, Act: Business Lessons and Best Practices from the 2017 Disaster Season

The 2017 hurricane season was an historic one for disasters in the United States, also accompanied by wildfires and mass shootings. On August 25, the devastation began with Hurricane Harvey dumping 51 inches of rain on Texas and Louisiana; a total of 33 trillion gallons of water (Fritz & Samenow, 2017). The following week, Hurricane Irma became the first major hurricane to make landfall in Florida since 2005. It brought mass devastation to the Florida Keys and affected other cities along the coast. Finally, on September 19, Hurricane Maria ravaged the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, leaving 3.7 million residents without electricity (FEMA, 2018).

In total, it has been assessed that Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria caused a combined $265 billion in damage. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), nearly 4.8 million households affected by the 2017 hurricanes and California wildfires registered for assistance—more than the previous 10 years combined (FEMA, 2018).

As we look back on these historic events from just a year ago, lessons continue to be gleaned from the response and recovery. One thing that continues to hold true is that when disaster strikes, business acts. From donating millions to supporting relief organizations, to activating countless employee volunteers, to providing in-kind products and services—communities recover quicker because the private sector mobilizes in times of need.

In 2017, the U.S. Chamber Foundation tracked $416 million in corporate contributions in response to disasters. This year’s case study highlights commitments companies made prior to the disasters and in the months following. Whether investing in resilience or building stronger partnerships, these companies have been committed to using their resources, assets, and expertise to support their employees, their customers, and their communities.

While we hope that we will not have another year like 2017, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Center knows that the private sector is taking the lead on disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. I am encouraged by the coordination between the private sector, our federal partners, and the nonprofit community. The innovations and collaborations happening across sectors are strengthening our ability to respond and are helping mitigate the effects of future disasters.


Brooks Nelson

Chapter 1: Building Resilience

Chapter 2: Successful Partnerships

Chapter 3: Employee and Community Response