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International Recovery Platform

The state of disaster resilience of small businesses: 'Natural hazard' or 'disaster'

The role of small businesses within communities is vital and stimulating to the city overall. Businesses provide goods and services to residents and visitors, employ local neighbors, and contribute to the well-being of the greater neighborhood. For businesses, resilience is the ability to survive, adapt and grow regardless of the shocks or stresses experienced. This includes being prepared for disasters, knowing how to respond to disasters, and understanding how to be connected both before and after a disaster. Small businesses have been largely forgotten when it comes to preparation for, response to or recovery from disasters. There are resilience improvement initiatives for major cities and multinational companies, however, small businesses are left behind even though they are the major source of employment, of new jobs created and often serve as critical supply links both to the community as well as to other companies. The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), in partnership with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and with funding support from the Walmart Foundation, launched a study in 2016 to evaluate the disaster preparedness and resilience of small- to mid-size enterprises (SMEs). This study was initiated after the devastating Category 5 Hurricane Katrina (2005) in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, which caused the death of 1,833 people and caused infrastructure damages in excess of $125B as a result of storm surge and levee failure. As a typical coastal city with many SMEs, this study focused on surveying over 200 SMEs in New Orleans to better understand the degree of preparedness to plan for, respond to and recover from a natural disaster. This paper is a contribution to the 2019 edition of the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR 2019).

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