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Complex Disaster Impacts, Resilience, and Recovery among Small- and Medium- Businesses: A Federal Research Portfolio Approach



Ariela Zycherman, Jennifer Helgeson, Claudia Nierenberg


At the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Climate and Adaptation Partnerships (CAP) Program and the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Community Resilience Program (CRP) collaborate on a portfolio of research projects, across national and regional scales that explore small- and medium-sized business (SMB) disruption and resilience to complex climate events. Some of the most significant costs associated with the impact of weather and climate disasters stem from disruptions experienced by SMBs, but the full extent of immediate and downstream impacts on communities can only be fully understood over time. The NOAA-NIST portfolio of projects uses social science framing to bridge federal research priorities that typically orient around specific hazards and risks, with sector-specific (i.e. SMBs) climate change resilience needs. This approach lends itself to a deeper understanding of complex climate events by focusing on cascading and compound events, including both acute and chronic exposures, as well as the broader social structures that formulate a variety of socio-economic stressors and that can exacerbate both vulnerability to impacts and recovery potential over time. In this commentary, we describe the development of the research portfolio and highlight the importance of the complex event framework and cross-agency cooperation in the federal approach to understanding and addressing climate change. This approach moves beyond considerations relevant to discrete risk types or events, to uncover the social and sectoral spaces in which conditions for impacts and recovery are formed and realized across multiple geographies and over time. Understanding the formulation of complex events, and in this demonstrative case how SMB operators across communities learn about and implement resilience measures, is key for effective and equitable climate services and building community resilience.
International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters


Zycherman, A. , Helgeson, J. and Nierenberg, C. (2023), Complex Disaster Impacts, Resilience, and Recovery among Small- and Medium- Businesses: A Federal Research Portfolio Approach, International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, [online], (Accessed June 15, 2024)


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Created September 13, 2023, Updated September 21, 2023