Strengthening small businesses & communities through preparedness
By Jennifer Pipa, Vice President, Disaster Programs, American Red Cross
In an emergency, every second counts — that’s why it’s crucial to be prepared.
National Preparedness Month is recognized each September to promote family and community disaster and emergency planning.
The past year reminded us that no one is beyond the reach of emergencies. In the U.S., millions of people across the country were impacted by an unrelenting wave of devastating disasters — from back-to-back hurricanes, to record-breaking wildfires, historic storms and, of course, home fires — compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Red Cross responds to an average of more than 60,000 disasters each year — providing safe shelter, hot meals, emotional support, and resources to aid in recovery. Whether an emergency harms two people or 2 million, our organization must be ready to help every day in communities across the country.
As disasters strike with greater frequency and intensity, it’s more important than ever that the Red Cross is prepared to respond – and that people, businesses, and communities are also ready to face the unexpected.
While we are best known for our disaster relief work, our role doesn’t end there. At the Red Cross, we also provide people and organizations with the knowledge and resources needed to face emergencies of all kinds, from home fires to natural disasters. Being prepared empowers communities to be more resilient — or bounce back — after a disaster. Resilient communities minimize losses, reopen businesses, quickly return citizens to work and restore essential services.
Small business owners invest a tremendous amount of time and resources to make their ventures successful. While the importance of emergency planning seems self-evident, it may be put on the back burner in the face of the more immediate business concerns.
According to a report from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40% of small businesses do not reopen following a disaster. On top of that, another 25% fail within one year. The U.S. Small Business Administration also found that over 90% of companies fail within two years of being struck by a disaster.
Simply put, being prepared can mean staying in business following a disaster. So developing an emergency preparedness plan is one of the most important strategic decisions you will make as a small business owner.
At the Red Cross, one of the ways we have tried to make this easier is through Ready Rating, our free, online self-paced program designed to help businesses, organizations and schools become better prepared for emergencies. In fact, we now have over 16,000 Member organizations that have joined and benefited from the tools and resources in the program.
When a small business joins, its representatives complete a self-assessment of the company’s level of preparedness. They also gain access to tips and best practices, and commit to improving the company’s assessment score each year.
You can download this Emergency Preparedness Checklist for Small Businesses brochure put together by FedEx, in collaboration with our Ready Rating Program, which provides more information about how you can prepare your business to stay in business. You can also find more information about preparing your small business for disaster at our Ready Rating site.
As a member of the American Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program (ADGP), FedEx’s donation to our organization before disasters strike helps ensure we can be on the scene of an emergency and get supplies shipped to where they’re most needed at a moment’s notice. But it also means that the Red Cross can also help people and organizations prepare and stay safe during all types of emergencies, through efforts like Ready Rating and so much more.
I’m truly proud of the work we’re doing to help make communities safer, but I’m even more grateful for the support we get from our generous volunteers, community partners, and donors – like FedEx – that help us deliver our lifesaving mission year-round. Although we can’t control all the challenges faced by our communities, together, we can be better prepared to face them – and any crises yet to come.
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