Quick Guide: Small Business Preparedness


January 01, 2015


Top 10 Preparedness Tips

  1. Organize a staff team to create your plan.
  2. Gather critical documents and information needed for decision making.
  3. Identify and prioritize the company’s most important operations and processes.
  4. Identify hazards and potential disruptions to your operations.
  5. Keep it simple: design a plan that is easy to understand and implement. .
  6. Create a communications strategy and plan to use it post emergency. Maintain an up-to-date emergency contact list for employees, vendors, suppliers, and other key stakeholders.
  7. Recruit and train employee volunteers that can effectively manage the response.
  8. Back up and store vital records and data at an off-site location.
  9. Take action to mitigate the potential impact of a disaster on equipment, buildings, facilities, inventory, and storage. Consider your insurance options and whether to purchase a generator.
  10. Exercise, test, and update your plan at least annually.

Only 33% of small businesses have business interruption insurance. (National Association of Insurance Commissioners)

More Tips:

“Small businesses are at particular risk as they often lack the resources to survive a catastrophic event. And when small businesses are unable to rebuild, the entire community continues to suffer. Jobs are lost, neighborhoods decline, and individuals and families endure further hardships.”~United Way, Larimer County (CO) after 2013 floods

Preparedness Guides


Checklists—By Hazard

Business Continuity Planning (BCP)

71% of small businesses say they are “very dependent” on 1 or 2 key people, but only 22% have “Key Person Insurance” ~National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)


Insurance is not a tax; it is a risk management tool critical for all businesses. It can reduce the financial impact of accidents, fires, and other unplanned disruptions. Insurance protects businesses from events out of their control and improves chances for survival. Here are some tips to keep your business running smoothly:

  • Review your coverage and design an insurance program that fits your business and risks. Bring in an insurance professional to explain different types of available coverage. Keep in mind that some policies may not need to cover every aspect of the business but simply the most critical elements that you need to remain operational. Find the right balance.
  • When disaster strikes, file a claim as soon as possible. To do so, plan ahead for what items you will be required to provide so you do not miss an important step in the process. Take pre-disaster photos of your business and equipment. After an event occurs, document damage with photos or videos.

Review Your Coverage

Filing a Claim

Communicating with Employees, Suppliers, and Customers

During disasters, communication is one of the most needed activities to inform employees and suppliers, answer customer questions, reduce rumors, and provide expectations to the public. It is also one of the first systems to break or experience challenges.

To plan for potential business interruptions and to create a crisis communication strategy as part of your larger Business Continuity Plan. Here are some tips:

  • Keep your Emergency Contact List updated with every possible mode to reach each person (phone: work, home, cell, significant other’s cell; email: work, personal, alternate; family contact; evacuation plan and contact; social media: Facebook, Twitter; etc.)
  • Consider an alert mechanism that can keep your employees, customers, vendors, suppliers, and stakeholders informed and regularly updated in multiple ways (e.g. email, text messages). Test regularly.
  • Use existing social media platforms to communicate online (e.g. Facebook, Twitter).
  • Have procedures to work with the media following a crisis.
  • Identify a spokesperson to be the voice of your company in talking with the media.
  • Developing messaging and talking points specific to their intended audience (e.g. employees, vendors, community members).
  • Communicate accurately and often with customers to keep them informed of any delays in delivery, alternatives, expectations, and any compensation.
  • Monitor outside communications to determine what is working well and areas to improve your communication strategy.
  • Update the communications strategy often. Train employees and provide new hires with the communications strategy.

Crisis Communication Planning

Integrating Social Media into Your Communications Plan

Employee Assistance

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can be useful in handling productivity decline following a disaster.  

  • Consider how your company can help employees and families access medical care, food, housing, and other essentials.
  • Plan to connect employees with resources.  Those hit hardest may not have working phones or the ability to call area resources to find new housing, child care, a kennel, a rental car, or other necessary services.
  • Plan for the possibility of employees requiring financial assistance through the form of emergency grants or an advance on future wages. 
  • How to Set-Up an Employee Assistance Program? – Five steps to set up an EAP.
  • Employee Assistance & Support (FEMA) – Steps on setting up an EAP and opening a family assistance center.
  • A Manager’s Handbook: Handling Traumatic Events – Chapters six and seven specifically provide information for businesses looking to set up an Employee Assistance Program. Includes tips on minimizing employees’ stress.

Additional Resources

Depending on the type of hazards your business may face there are a variety of resources to help. These include FEMA, SBA, business continuity publications, local fire departments, Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development organizations, professional organizations and many more. Most  have a strong online presence with tools available via the internet.

  • FEMA.gov – Presents many kinds of preparedness information and materials.
  • Ready Business (FEMA) - Helps companies develop a five-step preparedness program that addresses the impact of many hazards.
  • Protect your Property or Business from Disaster (FEMA) – A downloadable list of publications detailing how to minimize property losses caused by various types of natural disasters.
  • DisasterAssistance.gov – If you have personal (non-business) losses, register with FEMA here or call FEMA: (800) 621-3362 or TTY (800) 462-7585.
  • Disaster Declarations are made by states to keep track of what is happening and provide immediate resources.
  • If there is a federal emergency declared, click here to find your nearest Disaster Recovery Center.
  • SBA: Disaster Loans Links to articles, factsheets, and forms related to the Disaster Loans program; includes mail-in and online applications.  
  • Emergency Preparedness (SBA) – Articles on planning and resources.
  • IRS Videos on Disaster Subjects – Informative videos to help businesses affected by a major disaster.