Disaster Preparedness

Tips and resources for small business owners

Emergency Preparedness

This year, hurricane season is expected to last until November 30th, as hurricanes are forecasted to reach Category 4 storm levels throughout the Texas and Louisiana gulf coasts. The UH SBDC Network encourages you to take the precautionary steps necessary to ensure the health and safety of your team, as well as support business continuity and resiliency after the storm passes.

Here are tips and resources you can use to prepare your small business for a natural disaster:

Create a plan

Creating a disaster preparedness plan, along with proactive decision-making, can set your business up for employee safety, reduced loss, and an accelerated recovery phase. Below are five steps you can take to be fully prepared:

  • Identify key employees, business functions, and objectives that are essential to sustaining your business and would need support in the event of a disaster. What processes are critical to recovery and business continuity? Focus on your primary business goals and what operations are necessary to sustain the business or maintain cash flow. Perform a business impact analysis of the aftereffects of the storm that can potentially disrupt operations, damage property, or cause unexpected expenses. Are there any employees whom are at risk for damages to the storm, whose absence would greatly impact operational efficiency? Build a plan that centers on these identified objectives, and will minimize the impact of a storm to staff, property, operations, and assets.
  • Brainstorm how each brick-and-mortar location will be supported, with attention to their proximity to flood zones. Identify possible hazards or obstructions that can severely damage your everyday operations: flooded highways preventing foot traffic, your building’s proximity to flood zones, or glass storefront windows that make your property and inventory highly vulnerable to damage from the storm. Ways to prepare each location include obtaining batteries and generators, a backup water source, and a supply of gasoline powered pumps to protect the lower levels from flooding. You may also consider boarding windows, anchoring large furniture, and sandbagging areas vulnerable to flooding. If you aren’t already, it may be best to shift to a remote workforce, to minimize potential risks to your employees, assets, and inventory.
  • Collect any essential physical documentation for your business, and back-up all digital files to avoid chaos during and after the storm. Ensure that your files are saved in a facility or virtual location that is safe, secure, and dependable. It is best to collect these files in a “records-to-go” box that is fire-and waterproof. Gather customary documentation that will be ready on-hand in the event of a disaster, including:
    • - Evacuation policies and maps
    • - Emergency responder contact list
    • - Emergency contacts for employees and clients
    • - Insurance policies and agent information
    • - Copies of licenses, permits, bank records, and tax returns
    • - Year-to-date financial statements
    • - Lists of suppliers, creditors, and vendors
    • - Legal incorporation and Tax ID’s

  • Proactively develop your plan for communication that you will use to coordinate emergency activities, provide live updates for employees, maintain communication with clients and suppliers, provide media updates, and implement your recovery plan. Establish backup communication plans in the event of phone service and reception or WIFI becoming inoperable during a storm. Ensure that your employees and designated disaster team is fully trained on a consistent basis so they may remain safe and assist in recovery.
  • Create a comprehensive disaster plan that details processes for risk management, step-by-step emergency protocols, and evacuation routes for each location. Your plan should identify important supplies, contacts, and communication plans for each team, and pre-determines any necessary policy changes, such as your leave policy for impacted employees. Gather on-site materials to ensure the wellbeing of your employees and customers in the event of an immediate disaster, including:
    • - Food and water supplies
    • - Cots, sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows
    • - Hygiene products: soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, towels, etc.
    • - Flashlights, batteries, candles, and matches
    • - First-aid kit
    • - Phone and computer chargers
    • - Battery-operated radio

    Remember to always expect the unexpected, as flexible planning will enable you to quickly pivot and adapt to any extreme scenarios.

Stay Informed

Proactive risk management includes tracking any nearby storm activity and staying up to date on all local emergency alerts. Use these resources to stay aware of any natural disasters that may directly affect your business, employees, and customers.

Hurricane Preparedness

Prepare your small business for hurricane season. These resources will help you prepare for a hurricane’s effect on your business, employees, and community by highlighting activities you should undertake before, during, and following the event.

Resource Guide

Use this guide to help you create a plan that will prepare for a natural disaster and enable business recovery.

Learn More

Hurricane Checklist

This checklist will help you prepare for a hurricane’s effect on your business, employees, and local community.

Learn More

Business Assessment

Use this checklist to identify what needs to be done, and where to start on an action plan to prepare for a disaster.

Learn More

Business Tips

Read these ten hurricane preparedness tips for small businesses that will help you prepare for Hurricane Laura.

Learn More

Preparedness Webinars

Watch free UH SBDC Network webinars aimed at providing disaster preparedness guidance during COVID-19.

Learn More

U.S. Chamber

Small business resources to minimize the impact of a disaster on employees, property, and operations.

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Texas Ready Info

Texas Dept. of State Health Services has a step-by-step guide on what to do during, before, and after a hurricane.

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Determine your personal risk for a hurricane, and learn about evacuation zones and updating your insurance.

Learn More


Develop a business resiliency plan to quickly recover operations during the aftermath of the storm. This may include requesting an appointment with a COVID-19 Business Specialist and applying for state or federal disaster recovery assistance. Use the resources below to help draft a plan for business continuity and enable operational security after the disaster.

Live and Recorded Webinars

Register today for a free small business webinars. Taught by industry experts in various topics, these
webinars will help you manage and grow your business.

View Webinars

Additional Resources

UH SBDC Hurricane Preparedness Blogs

Read through our blog posts to explore further tips and resources for disaster preparedness for your small business.

Hurricane Preparedness Business Tips
Assess Your Business’s Hurricane Readiness
10 Storm Preparedness Tips for Your Small Business
Step-By-Step Guide: How to Build a Business Recovery Plan

Ready.gov Hurricane Resources

The Department of Homeland Security provides ample resources for business owners seeking guidance on hurricane preparedness and business recovery. Use these resources to prepare your business for emergencies such as hurricanes, floods, cyberattacks, and more.

Hurricane Toolkit
Emergency Financial First Aid Kit
Inland Flooding Toolkit
Inland Flooding Toolkit - Spanish
Business Emergency Preparedness
Business Impact Analysis

UH SBDC COVID-19 Resources

The University of Houston Texas Gulf Coast Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network is committed to supporting small business owners who are facing unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit our one-stop-shop for COVID-19 resources and assistance.

Click Here for more info.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

The Paycheck Protection Program, by the Small Business Administration, is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.

You can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating in the program.

Note: Current law dictates that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) close at the end of August 8, 2020. As such, SBA is no longer accepting PPP applications from participating lenders.

Click Here for UH SBDC live and recorded webinars on the Paycheck Protection Program.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, small business owners and non-profit organizations in all U.S. states, Washington D.C., and territories are able to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). EIDL is designed to provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. EIDL proceeds can be used to cover a wide array of working capital and normal operating expenses, such as continuation to health care benefits, rent, utilities, and fixed debt payments.

SBA resumed accepting new Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) applications on June 15 to all qualified small businesses, including U.S. agricultural businesses.

Click Here for UH SBDC live and recorded webinars on Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

While preparing for the event of an emergency, we encourage you to be mindful of all current CDC health guidelines for your employees and business. Here are strategies and guidance to help prevent workplace exposures to COVID-19, as well as resources for health and business continuity.

Click Here for more info.