Emergencies that affect business operations can happen without warning. Every situation is different, depending on the type of business you operate and what type of emergency is occurring. Below are some common tips that can help you be prepared and respond quickly to an emergency.

Stay informed

Your safety is our top concern. The City of Philadelphia wants to make sure you receive the latest information on emergency preparedness and response in crisis situations. City guidance can help you make informed decisions for your business, employees and customers as recovery plans continue to unfold.

The City of Philadelphia’s notification system that provides residents with emergency information is ReadyPhiladelphia. Follow the Office of Emergency Management on Twitter and sign up for emergency alerts by texting ReadyPhila to 888-777.

Businesses are also advised to connect with local community development corporations, neighbors, representing District Council Members, and other businesses in the area to share the latest resources on emergency responses.

Join your local business association and your industry trade association, get to know your neighbors and share contact information. Then when an emergency happens, you will be more likely to be informed and can also share information with others.

Keep your documents accessible

In the event that an emergency causes damage to your business location, or it is not readily accessible, it is important to prepare ahead and keep copies of your business documents remotely. The IRS recommends that you keep digital copies of important documents, such as your business incorporation documents, income statements and tax returns, in a secure location. These records may be necessary for insurance filings, emergency grant applications, and to help you make business management decisions in a crisis.

At minimum, you should be sure you can access some important documents from a location other than your business:

  • Most recent federal tax returns
  • Business license/registration information
  • Insurance policies
  • Bank and credit accounts
  • Payroll and employee information.

Understand your insurance policies

There are many different types of business insurance coverage that apply in different situations. Be familiar with what protections you have with your insurance policy, and plan to meet at least once a year with your broker or agent to review your coverage that best fits your needs.

Understanding what to do if you need to file a claim is also important. For example, if your business experiences physical damage, it is important to clearly document all the damage with:

  • Photos/video recordings
  • List of damaged items or assets prior to beginning any cleanup.

The American Bar Association recommends that you review your policy and claim procedures regularly so you know what will be asked of you if you file a claim.

Be prepared to apply for emergency assistance

There may be financial resources available for your business in the event of an emergency or disaster. For any type of grant or loan application, you should be prepared by making sure you have access to your basic business information. This includes:

  • Tax returns
  • Identifying information such as EIN, revenue and cash flow statements
  • Business and revenue losses per day
  • Business registration and licenses
  • Payroll information, debt schedule, and a signed W-9 form.

The City of Philadelphia Department of Commerce funds an Emergency Business Grant Program, administered by the Merchants Fund, to support eligible businesses facing hardship due to qualifying events such as fire, natural disaster, extreme acts of physical vandalism, utility failure, or a highly disruptive public works project.

If your business is located in an area where the governor or president declares a disaster, additional assistance may become available through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loans program.

It is important to prepare in advance in emergency situations so that you are ready to apply if financial relief becomes available for your business.

Make a plan for your business and employees

An emergency preparedness plan is critical for the long-term success of your business, your personal safety and those of your employees. This plan can be a foundational reference point to help you:

  • Minimize risks and costs of property damage.
  • Retain and attract employees.
  • Keep a record of local resources and emergency contacts.
  • Protect your most valuable business assets.
  • Be as prepared as possible for various urgent safety-related scenarios.
  • Create a checklist for the business team including key contact information.
  • Assess your vulnerabilities within and around your property and more.

FEMA’s Organizations Preparing for Emergency Needs (OPEN) is a self-guided training program designed to teach small business owners and operators how to identify risks, locate resources, and take preparedness actions. FEMA also offers emergency preparedness checklists and toolkits.

We recommend that the emergency preparedness plan for your business sets clear roles and responsibilities, including steps on how to communicate relevant emergency information to all customers and employees. Business owners should display their evacuation plans, key phone numbers and emergency supplies in a prominent location for employees to easily find.

Know where to ask for help

The Department of Commerce Office of Business Services hotline is available throughout the year and in crisis situations to support businesses. We provide one-on-one assistance, outreach, guidance on available resources and ongoing support to businesses.

Philadelphia entrepreneurs can reach us by calling (215) 683-2100 and emailing business@phila.gov. Direct assistance is available in Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Cambodian, Khmer, and Vietnamese. Additional languages are available via interpretation services.

There are also resources for you to take proactive steps to prepare your business for the unexpected. The Business Resource Finder can connect you with Business Technical Assistance providers, financial and credit counselors, who can help you understand smart financial planning, how to shop for and understand business insurance policies, and develop a plan for unexpected events that affect your business.