Small Business Recovery Expanded Guide

When a disaster occurs, businesses must take care of their employees’ needs, communicate the impact, address financial matters (e.g., insurance, disaster assistance), restore operations, and organize recovery. Below are resources to help reopen your business and make progress through long-term recovery. For more details, visit: www.uschamberfoundation.org/ccc.

Top 10 Tips for Recovery

  1. Implement your disaster plan. Assess damage and consider if a backup location is needed.
  2. Shift your team and leadership from preparedness to recovery.
  3. Implement a communications strategy to ensure that the facts go directly to employees, suppliers, customers, and the media.
  4. Encourage employees to take appropriate actions and communicate.
  5. Document damage, file insurance claims, and track recovery.
  6. Cultivate partnerships in the community with businesses, government, and nonprofits.
  7. Provide employee support and assistance.
  8. Connect with chambers of commerce, economic development, and other community support organizations.
  9. Document lessons learned and update your plan.
  10. Contact the Disaster Help Desk for support at 1-888-MY-BIZ-HELP (1-888-692-4943), or visit www.facebook.com/USCCFhelpdesk or https://twitter.com/USCCFhelpdesk.

Checklists and Additional Tips

Recovery Resources

  • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest loans and other resources to assist small businesses post disaster. http://1.usa.gov/K76sRE
  • Register for federal disaster assistance, when available, at the SBA Customer Service Center - Call 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides updates on current disaster events and assistance for employees who have damage at their homes. www.FEMA.gov
  • When Disaster Hits Home: A Story of Resilience and Recovery – How a business responded both in their community and with their employees.

Below is a list of categories for available recovery resources:

  • Immediate Needs, Emergency Response & Recovery
  • Recovery Guidance
  • Financial Assistance / Funding / Taxes
  • Recovery Resources
  • IT Disaster Recovery
  • Mental Health
  • Individual, Families, Employees and Community Recovery

Immediate Needs, Emergency Response & Recovery

  • Google Person Finder – This app helps people connect with family and employees after a disaster.
  • Safe and Well  - Register or search the Red Cross’ Safe and Well listing here.
  • Google Public Alerts – This service allows you to go online to search for the latest information during an emergency, and will disseminate relevant emergency alerts to you when/where you need them.
  • National Disaster Help Desk – Provides assistance to businesses struck by disasters across the country. Dial 1-888-MY-BIZ-HELP or 1-888-692-4943 to get help navigating the disaster assistance realm. Also posts helpful info on Facebook, Twitter, and to its blogs.
  • FEMA Text Messages is a service that allows you to use your cell phone’s text messaging capability to receive text updates from FEMA (standard message and data rates apply).To sign up for monthly preparedness tips: text PREPARE to 43362 (4FEMA).
  • US Small Business Administration (SBA) – The SBA has low-interest loans and other resources to assist small businesses after a disaster. No obligations. Register BEFORE the deadline ends to keep your options open. Get more information here www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/loans-grants/small-business-loans/disaster-loans.
  • SBA Customer Service Center - Call 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – Provides updates on current disaster events
  • Ready.gov/business (FEMA) – Has many business-focused tips and resources on what to do during different types of disasters.
  • FEMA Private Sector – This page lists mobile apps, resources for businesses, and other info.

Recovery Guidance

Federal Financial Assistance / Funding / Taxes

Mental Health

This is a topic no one wants to discuss; yet it is critical to recovery. There are resources to help minor to severe trauma by allowing people to express their experiences. By ignoring the problem, it may only get worse, and your business may lose key people at critical recovery times. It is better to address issues or needs up front and allow staff to debrief.

Individual, Families, Employees and Community Recovery

“Keep detailed records of business activity and the extra expenses of keeping your business operating in a temporary location during the interruption period. If you are forced to close down, include expenses that continue during the time that the business is closed, such as advertising and the cost of utilities” -- The Insurance Information Institute

Insurance Help

Employee Assistance

  • If you don’t have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), consider starting one.  An EAP will help your business and your employees cope with the aftermath of a disaster.
  • An EAP can further aid employees who have experienced trauma from a disaster and any associated losses. This includes helping executives and other company leadership who may have a difficult time focusing during recovery.
  • After a disaster employees may experience increased fear, grief, stress, sadness, and anxiety, often continuing for weeks or months. Point employees to your EAP or crisis counselors for assistance. Address all employees by holding a disaster debrief to discuss what happened and what resources are available to them.
  • To alleviate stress and minimize confusion, your leadership should communicate with employees about how the company is addressing recovery and what resources exist for employees.
  • Continue to update employees on the business’ ongoing recovery.
  • Consider ways that your company can help employees’ and their families access medical care, food, housing, and other essentials.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
  • Those hit hardest may not have working phones or the ability to call area resources to find new housing, childcare, animal care facilities, a rental car, or other services necessary to restoring their daily lives. Find or connect employees to needed resources, then share with other employees, customers, and the public.
  • Use the human resources (HR) department’s employee hotline, or create one, to take calls regarding employees’ disaster needs. Make sure to keep needs confidential.
  • Un-impacted employees are often willing to help fellow employees with caring for pets, carpooling, housing a family, loaning lost equipment like computers or cell phones, and organizing fundraisers to replace lost items.
  • Disaster Distress Helpline —To reach out for free 24/7 counseling or support, contact the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs’ to 66746. TTY for Deaf/Hearing Impaired:  1-800-846-8517. Visit http://rdcrss.org/1hsTafJ.
  • There are many online tools to help employees cope with disaster: http://bit.ly/1ydWoKh
  • Recovering and Rebuilding After a Disaster: Part 4 – Helping Your Employees Through a Crisis – Article discussing how to talk with employees and assist them during a difficult time.
  • A business guide to helping employees following a Hurricane: http://bit.ly/1qPqsrr
  • A Manager’s Handbook: Handling Traumatic Events – Discusses Employee Assistance Programs following disaster.  
  • 5 Ways to Help Employees Affected by Disaster – Lists useful tips to help employees recover emotionally and financially.
  • IRS: Help During Disasters – Comprehensive list of resources for employers or employees facing the effects of disaster.

Documentation and Administrative Recovery

  • Use photos and videos to document damage to property, inventory, equipment, and other losses. Document all repairs (e.g., boarding up broken windows, holes in a roof). Document the repair and restoration process until normal operation is resumed.
  • Make a list of damaged or lost items and, if possible, include date of purchase, value, and receipts.
  • Document all extra expenses you incur in the process of resuming operations, including renting equipment (until yours is repaired or replaced), temporarily leasing another location, marketing, and moving expenses.
  • File a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible, if needed.
  • Ask your insurance agent to review your business to determine what needs to be covered (e.g., loss of net income, operating expenses that need to be paid while closed, or extra expenses incurred afterward) so that you can begin addressing how you will cover it. “How” includes insurance policies, loans, and credit.
  • Keep all important documents in one place, backed up, and stored off-site where they are accessible. This will save precious time. Add security (e.g., encrypting) to protect key financial data, bank accounts, etc.
  • Copies of documents or information you should have available may vary depending on the type of business, but can include: insurance policies, leases, recent income tax forms, historical sales records, inventory, employees’ computer equipment and software inventory, contracts especially Service-Level Agreements (SLA). You may need to produce copies of some of these documents as part of the recovery. Make sure you do not lose your only hard copies in the process.
  • Disaster Relief for Individuals and Small Businesses – Created after Hurricane Sandy, it provides five steps on how to apply for federal assistance (FYI: ignore homeowner and New Jersey specific info).

Connect with Local Chambers of Commerce

  • Your local chamber is a great resource and conduit during a recovery process. Because chambers speak for busiesses, they can advocate for additional outside resources that the community might need. Chambers channel resources and funds that can be of great assistance to impacted businesses. They need to hear about your business’s needs.
  • Many chambers have relationships or share space with Small Business Development Centers (SBDC). SBDCs offer free business counseling including guidance after disasters.
  • The Disaster Help Desk is a resource available to your business. If this is the first time you are thinking about disaster recovery, reach out for help to ask the questions of what you need to think about, do first, who to call, things to consider, etc. Contact the National Disaster Help Desk at 1-888-MY BIZ HELP (1-888-692-4943) or visit www.facebook.com/usccfhelpdesk or https://twitter.com/USCCFhelpdesk.
  • Local chambers have connections within the local community, in the region, and across the country. These connections can be especially useful in providing help after a disaster.

“Monitor progress on your program and find ways to improve it. Reinforce employees’ participation in, and responsibility for, the overall recovery effort.” -- The Hartford

Celebrate Milestones

  • The business recovery process is immense, stressful, and labor intensive. When people are already busy and potentially burdened by recovery efforts, celebrating milestones may seem frivolous. But do not overlook the need to address  employees’ mental health and to remind them that their hard work has purpose, progress is being made, and light exists at the end of the tunnel.
  • By reopening your doors, it can encourage other businesses and organizations to recover faster, thereby helping the community as a whole.
  • Recovery requires interconnectivity between public, private, non-profit, faith-based, and community organizations at all levels. Celebrate and promote recovery events that provide assistance to individuals, families, businesses, and other organizations in a “together we recover” type of approach. It is a great opportunity to keep the focus on recovery over the longer-term, bring resources to those who need it, and put your businesses in a position of information-sharing that will be remembered by your employees and the community for years.
  • Celebrate your reopening and highlight your goods and services as an opportunity to market to potential new customers, especially those waiting on other businesses to reopen. Once you have these new customers, they will likely stay.
  • Recovering from a disaster is hard work. Praise, recognize, and reward efforts throughout all levels of the business.
  • Handling the recovery well and acknowledging employees’ roles increase company loyalty.
  • Highlighting the re-openings of hospitals, schools, iconic community locations like restaurants considered “institutions”, civic spots, memorials, businesses or areas that have prevailed in spite of adverse odds, are all opportunities to tell the story of the community working together and building back better and stronger. This is a way to bring visitors into a recovering community.
  • Your human resources department is typically the one that recognizes milestones within the company and can play an important role in recovery by being attentive to the needs of employees by celebrating recovery milestones. The events may be organized in a fun and inviting way and can incorporate employees with non-essential recovery roles so they can participate in the restoration of the business.
  • Recognize that there may be employees who are still experiencing difficulties, a personal loss, or need help. You can use milestones to also highlight whichever areas still need assistance.

“Also, as the recovery continues, remember that many staff are either displaced themselves or are sharing their space with the staff who are displaced, making working conditions far less than ideal. Stress levels will be unusually high; therefore, setting a positive tone, recognizing staff accomplishments, and celebrating milestones are more important than ever.” -- Comprehensive Guide to Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Recovery