Immediately following a disaster, economic development organizations and chambers of commerce are likely to be operating at reduced capacity. Any number of factors could affect their operations, such as displaced staff, damaged facilities, reduced operational funds, and/or utility outages. Yet, these organizations will need to respond to the immense post-disaster economic recovery needs in their community. This demonstrates the need for capacity building for economic recovery.


The following steps will help economic development organizations strengthen capacity to better respond to local recovery needs.

Step 1: Economic development organizations (EDOs), chamber of commerce and business associations should be prepared to continue operations in the event of an emergency/disaster
Step 1a: Organizations should arrange for two alternate/backup office locations, in case their main office is severely damaged in the disaster.

This ensures that if the first alternate location is also impacted, a second location is available.

Step 1b: Establish roles and responsibilities for each economic development stakeholder to fulfill different economic recovery functions.

For example, determine which organization will establish and operate the post-disaster business recovery center. It is important to evaluate each organization’s unique set of capabilities, networks, and resources when considering their role.

Step 1c: The EDOs should create a plan for establishing a business recovery center after a disaster.

This plan can also be developed by one EDO but shared with other economic recovery stakeholders/partners.

Step 2: Involve the local business community in the emergency management support function
Step 2a: The community’s lead EDO should ensure that either a staff member or a representative from the business community participates in emergency preparation and planning activities.

Emergency management personnel are familiar with the roles and responsibilities of first responders (police, fire, etc.), yet they also make planning decisions which have direct impacts on the business community after a disaster. Economic development representation enables the business community to have a voice in the emergency planning process, particularly as it relates to business concerns such as re-entry into a disaster-impacted community, business interruption, and redevelopment decisions.

Step 2b: Advocate to the state to establish a state-level ESF 18 structure for emergency management

States such as Florida and Louisiana have established such a structure to enable greater coordination and planning between different government agencies, as well as the private sector, in the event of a disaster. If your state has established a state-level ESF-18 structure, FEMA will provide funds for participating in these planning efforts. This ensures that your business representative is included in the community’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in the event of a disaster.

Step 3: Strengthen communication capabilities and create a post-disaster communication strategy

Communication is one of the first things to break down after a disaster, causing rippling impacts on a local economy. Businesses are likely to look first to an EDO or chamber of commerce for critical information, so these organizations play an important role in correcting misinformation that often gets out in a chaotic, post-disaster situation. Having a plan for continuing communications with local businesses and between government and the private sector is key.

EDOs should develop a comprehensive list of business members that includes cell numbers to be used in emergency situation (text messaging still works when land and cell phone lines are down). Another important step is backing up office files and a list of service providers on a remote server that can be accessed from anywhere. More guidance is available on developing a communications strategy in the event of a disaster.

Step 4: Develop a support system to monitor post-disaster impacts

The local EDO should develop baseline economic data and information before a disaster to position itself to measure post-disaster economic impacts. These baseline data inform a post-disaster economic impact analysis, which plays a critical role in educating elected officials about the economic damage to the community so that appropriate resources are distributed. The community should also think about the type of metrics it will use for monitoring post-disaster impacts, as well as for monitoring the progress of recovery. This is further discussed in the page on pre-disaster planning.

Step 5: Develop an economic recovery plan for the community

As mentioned earlier, the economic recovery team should include key economic development stakeholders, such as representatives from EDOs and chambers, as well as executives from the community’s economic drivers. The pre-disaster planning page lays out the major components for developing an economic recovery plan. This plan should be revisited, vetted and updated on an ongoing basis so that it stays relevant to the needs of the community.



  • The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to helping economic developers do their job more effectively through training, conferences, advisory services and research, and publications.
  • National Association of Development Organization (NADO) serves as the association of the nation’s 520 regional development organizations, focusing on federal advocacy, research and analysis, fostering peer exchanges, and professional development.
  • The Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI) seeks to create awareness about the role of risk management in organizational success. Their website serves as a resource for public entities, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations, providing relevant and high quality enterprise risk management information, training, data & analysis, and listing of publications/reports.
  • The U.S. Chamber’s Corporate Citizenship Center features resources on disaster response, among other topics, that may be of interest.


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