Templates & Resources

Using artificial intelligence to help you develop a plan

Tools like ChatGPT offer small businesses a new way to do disaster planning. With a simple description of what kind of disaster you need a plan for, AI will generate a good outline for you that you can then add detail to, based on your own business. It can be a real-time saver.

For instance, entering the phrase “create a detailed workflow for preparing for and recovering from a fire in a small business, including all the steps needed in each stage” in ChatGPT generated the following response framework:


Preparing for and recovering from a fire in a small business involves careful planning, communication, and execution of specific steps. Below is a detailed workflow for both the preparation and recovery stages.

Preparation Stage

1. Risk Assessment

    • Identify potential fire hazards within the business premises.
    • Assess the vulnerability of critical assets and equipment to fire damage.
    • Evaluate the potential impact on employees, customers, and the community.

 2. Emergency Response Plan

    • Develop a comprehensive emergency response plan that includes specific procedures for fire incidents.
    • Clearly define roles and responsibilities for employees during a fire emergency.
    • Establish an evacuation plan with designated assembly points.

 3. Fire Prevention Measures

    • Install and maintain fire detection and suppression systems.
    • Regularly inspect and maintain electrical systems and equipment.
    • Implement safe storage practices for flammable materials.

 4. Employee Training

    • Conduct regular fire safety training for all employees.
    • Ensure employees are familiar with evacuation routes, fire exits, and assembly points.
    • Train designated employees in the use of fire extinguishers and other firefighting equipment.

 5. Communication Protocols

    • Establish clear communication channels for emergency situations.
    • Implement an emergency notification system to alert employees and stakeholders.
    • Coordinate with local emergency services and establish points of contact.

 6. Insurance and Documentation

    • Review and update insurance policies to ensure adequate coverage for fire-related damages.
    • Keep detailed records of business assets, inventory, and equipment.
    • Store important documents in a fireproof safe or off-site location.

 7. Mock Drills

    • Conduct regular fire drills to ensure employees are familiar with emergency procedures.
    • Evaluate the effectiveness of evacuation plans and address any issues identified during drills.
    • Provide feedback and additional training based on drill performance.

Recovery Stage

1. Assessment and Safety Check

    • After the fire is extinguished, conduct a safety assessment of the premises.
    • Ensure that the building is structurally sound before allowing re-entry.
    • Collaborate with fire officials and safety inspectors to assess the extent of the damage.

 2. Communication with Stakeholders

    • Notify employees, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders about the incident.
    • Communicate the status of the business and any changes in operations.
    • Provide regular updates on the recovery progress.

 3. Insurance Claims

    • Contact the insurance provider immediately and initiate the claims process.
    • Provide all necessary documentation, including damage assessments and inventory records.
    • Collaborate with insurance adjusters to ensure a fair and timely settlement.

 4. Temporary Facilities

    • Secure temporary facilities or a temporary workspace to resume essential operations.
    • Set up temporary IT infrastructure, phone lines, and other critical systems.
    • Communicate the new location to employees and customers.

 5. Equipment and Inventory Assessment

    • Evaluate the condition of salvageable equipment and inventory.
    • Determine what can be repaired, replaced, or salvaged.
    • Dispose of damaged items in compliance with regulations.

 6. Financial Recovery Planning

    • Develop a financial recovery plan to manage cash flow during the rebuilding process.
    • Explore financial assistance options, grants, or loans available for businesses affected by fire.
    • Adjust budgets and financial projections based on the new circumstances.

 7. Rebuilding and Reconstruction

    • Work with contractors, architects, and other professionals to plan the rebuilding process.
    • Obtain necessary permits and approvals for reconstruction.
    • Prioritize essential areas to expedite the reopening of the business.

 8. Employee Assistance and Support

    • Provide support services for employees affected by the fire.
    • Communicate with employees about their roles during the recovery phase.
    • Offer counseling services or resources to help employees cope with the aftermath.

 9. Community Relations

    • Communicate openly with the local community about the recovery process.
    • Engage in community outreach programs or support initiatives to rebuild community trust.
    • Collaborate with local authorities to address any concerns or regulatory requirements.

 10. Continuous Evaluation and Improvement

    • Conduct a post-incident review to evaluate the effectiveness of the emergency response plan.
    • Identify areas for improvement in fire prevention measures and recovery procedures.
    • Update the emergency response plan based on lessons learned from the incident.

By following this detailed workflow, a small business can enhance its resilience to fire incidents and streamline the recovery process in the aftermath of such an event. Regularly reviewing and updating the plan ensures its continued relevance and effectiveness.


Additional Resources

Washington Business Preparedness Survey

A survey to assess the readiness of state businesses to help local emergency preparedness planners understand local business needs and abilities to prepare for and recover from natural and man-made disasters.


Provides resources and best practice information for public and private stakeholders who are seeking to rebuild their local economies after a disaster as well as assisting the business community in preparing for a disaster. It is a one-stop shop for disaster preparedness, post-disaster economic recovery, and disaster resiliency resources, tools, event announcements as well as opportunities to connect with peers through social media groups. The following is a list of reports and guides that will assist you in your search.

International Sustainable Resilience Center

Works to bring global expertise in disaster resilience, sustainability, and public-private partnerships together to help offset the growing threat of disasters around the world.

Disaster Assistance Improvement Program

DAIP's mission is to provide disaster survivors with information, support, services, and a means to access and apply for disaster assistance through joint data-sharing efforts between federal, tribal, state, local, and private sector partners.

Deadly extreme weather is the new normal - The Hill

How to help small business after a flood - Route 50

A Message to FEMA: Respond to Disasters Differently - Route 50

new report from International City/County Management Association (ICMA) documents leadership challenges and lessons learned after natural disasters and crises such as mass shootings and police shootings. “Before, After, and During a Crisis” stresses the importance of community engagement in building resilience. Drawing from numerous case studies of city managers’ responses to crisis events, the report identifies best practices and key takeaways

Moving Forward After a Disaster, prepared by the Red Cross provides information for critical resources, helpful checklists, and phone numbers that may assist you in your recovery.

Direct Relief’s approach to disasters is to support the immediate needs of victims by working with local partners best situated to assess, respond, and prepare for the long-term recovery.

After the Camp Fire: How does a mayor rebuild Paradise when all seems lost?  Mercury News

A New Dividing Line: The Storm Before and After, Weekly Yonder

Lessons from Harvey: Crisis Informatics for Urban Resilience, Institute for Urban Research

Making Rescue Volunteers Part of the Official Response, Route Fifty

Beware of Scams: Protecting Yourself After the Storm The Hartford: Extra Mile

North Carolina Readies for Florence, NC Department of Public Safety

A Go Bag Can Make all the Difference in an Emergency, AARP

How To Build An Ultimate Go Bag For Any Emergency, Skilled Survival

How To Prepare For a Hurricane, AARP

Humanity's greatest existential crisis

Lending a hand to a rural natural disaster

Mobilize your crisis plan for improved emergency response

A toolkit for economic preparedness: Economic Disaster Recovery Project


Americans at Risk: Why We Are Not Prepared for Megadisasters and What We Can Do by Irwin Redlener, was written  by one of the  leading experts on disaster preparedness and offers a compelling narrative about our nation’s inability to properly plan for large-scale disasters and proposes changes that can still be made to assure the safety of its citizens. 

Master Your Disaster: Your Readiness, Response and Recovery Guide by recovery expert Leann Hackman-Carty shows you how to prepare your family, business, and community for a number of devastating scenarios. Gleaned from years of experience with disaster recovery organizations, her specialized insight will help you understand the different levels of disaster preparation and recovery. Master Your Disaster gives you the confidence to act calmly and efficiently when the time comes. Your new foundation in emergency preparedness, response, and recovery will make the chaos more controllable—and survivable.

Noah's Town: Where Animals Reign by Maury Forman, a 28-year veteran in economic development, tells the story of how the descendants of Noah's Ark have integrated themselves in society and have formed a sustainable and growing community. That is until the never expected, once-in-a-lifetime storm causes havoc among residents and tourists. It is up to Maya Morton, a proud and stubborn donkey and the newly appointed economic developer, to rescue her community and guide them to recovery. This fable illustrates that there is nothing more powerful than a community working together to prepare for a disaster before it happens.

Quakeland: On the Road to America's Next Devastating Earthquake, by Kathryn Miles, is a journey around the United States in search of the truth about the threat of earthquakes. This book leads to spine-tingling discoveries, unnerving experts, and ultimately the kind of preparations that will actually help guide us through disasters.

Federal Disaster Funding

Short descriptions of funding programs from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), EPA, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).


The Resilient Children/ Resilient Communities Toolbox is a dynamic collection of resources developed and curated throughout this initiative for the benefit of those working to make our communities and our children more resilient to disasters. This collection of tools and resources should be shared widely with communities nationwide. The toolbox is organized by different kinds of people or organizations that are looking for tools to assist in their preparedness and planning efforts

Planning for Business Operations After Earthquakes prepared by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation provides suggested steps to take to help protect your people and keep your business systems running in that scenario. This will improve your chances of maintaining revenue as well as operations during the recovery.

Ready is a national public service campaign designed to educate and empower the American people to prepare for, respond to and mitigate emergencies, including natural and man-made disasters. The goal of the campaign is to promote preparedness through public involvement. Ready ask individuals to do four key things: (1) stay informed about the different types of emergencies that could occur and their appropriate responses (2) make a family emergency plan and (3) build an emergency supply kit, and (4) get involved in your community by taking action to prepare for emergencies.

Engineers Without Borders USA builds a better world through engineering projects that empower communities to meet their basic human needs. Their highly skilled volunteers work with communities to find appropriate solutions for their infrastructure needs.

Summary of Disaster Programs for Farmers, Prepared for Farm Aid by the Farmers’ Legal Action Group.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance is available for individuals, including farmers, who are prevented from working because of a disaster, and is available through your state Employment Security Commission.

Rural Advancement Foundation International  (RAFI) developed a series of videos about how to prepare for, deal with, and recover from a disaster. They are most relevant to farmers, but lessons can be applied to others as well. Watch all four videos (including an introduction to the series, “Documenting Disasters,” “Distribution of Labor during a Disaster,” and “Working with Farmers in Disaster Recovery”) here.  Rafi Also provides information on Documenting Disaster Losses.

Crowd Source Rescue is a public-safety grade platform that uses next-generation technology to quickly connect both professional first-responders and vetted volunteers with response, relief, and recovery cases before, during, and immediately after a disaster.

Leadership in Times of Crisis: A Toolkit for Economic Recovery and Resiliency: provides strategies and tactics for community leaders to focus on for economic recovery and preserving jobs, incorporating useful information for convening private and public stakeholders to identify key economic recovery strategies, tips on how to navigate federal resources for response and recovery, and implementation of recovery initiatives.  The toolkit was developed by IEDC with nationwide input and funded in part by grants from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration.

The National Disaster Recovery Framework is a guide that enables effective recovery support to disaster-impacted States, Tribes, Territorial and local jurisdictions. It provides a flexible structure that enables disaster recovery managers to operate in a unified and collaborative manner. It also focuses on how best to restore, redevelop and revitalize the health, social, economic, natural and environmental fabric of the community and build a more resilient Nation.

The Pre-Disaster Recovery Planning Guide for Local Governments provides tools for public engagement, whole-community recovery, identification of existing recovery resources, and identifying outside partnerships that can help local governments build resilience both pre- and post-disaster.