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Business Recovery from Disasters: Lessons from Natural Hazards and the COVID-19 Pandemic



Stephanie Chang, Charlotte Brown, John Handmer, Jennifer Helgeson, Yoshio Kajitani, Adriana Keating, Ilan Noy, Maria Watson, Sahar Derakhshan, Juri Kim, Alfredo Roa Henriquez


This paper compares economic recovery in the COVID-19 pandemic with other types of disasters, at the scale of businesses. As countries around the world struggle to emerge from the pandemic, studies of business impact and recovery have proliferated; however, pandemic research is often undertaken without the benefit of insights from long-standing research on past large-scale disruptive events, such as floods, storms, and earthquakes. This paper builds synergies between established knowledge on business recovery in disasters and emerging insights from the COVID-19 pandemic. It first proposes a disaster event taxonomy that allows the pandemic to be compared with natural hazard events from the perspective of economic disruption. The paper then identifies five key lessons on business recovery from disasters and compares them to empirical findings from the COVID-19 pandemic. For synthesis, a conceptual framework on business recovery is developed to support policy-makers to anticipate business recovery needs in economically disruptive events, including disasters. Findings from the pandemic largely resonate with those from disasters. Recovery tends to be more difficult for small businesses, those vulnerable to supply chain problems, those facing disrupted markets, and locally-oriented businesses in heavily impacted neighborhoods. Disaster assistance that is fast and less restrictive provides more effective support for business recovery. Some differences emerge, however: substantial business disruption in the pandemic derived from changes in demand due to regulatory measures as well as consumer behaviour; businesses in high-income neighborhoods and central business districts were especially affected; and traditional forms of financial assistance may need to be reconsidered.
International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction


Business recovery, Economic Disasters, COVID-19 pandemic, International review, Vulnerability factors


Chang, S. , Brown, C. , Handmer, J. , Helgeson, J. , Kajitani, Y. , Keating, A. , Noy, I. , Watson, M. , Derakhshan, S. , Kim, J. and Roa Henriquez, A. (2022), Business Recovery from Disasters: Lessons from Natural Hazards and the COVID-19 Pandemic, International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, [online],, (Accessed June 16, 2024)


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Created August 9, 2022, Updated November 29, 2022