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Complex Event Resilience of Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises: Natural Disaster Planning During the COVID-19 Pandemic



Jennifer F. Helgeson, Juan F. Fung, Alfredo R. Roa Henriquez, Yating Zhang, Ariela Zycherman, Claudia Nierenberg, David T. Butry, Donna H. Ramkissoon


Researchers at NIST and NOAA launched a longitudinal effort to assess Complex Event Resilience of Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). As a first step, a national survey of SMEs was conducted to better understand: 1. Past SME experience with natural disasters; 2. Current SME experience with COVID-19; 3. Current SME experience with natural disasters during the COVID-19 pandemic; and 4. Future plans to cope with COVID-19 and natural disasters. This effort fills the gap in research on the experiences of SMEs dealing with complex events generally and those that arise during a pandemic, specifically. Initial findings from over 1300 SMEs indicate that: 29 % have already experienced a natural disaster during the pandemic; 76 % implemented some adaptation/coping strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic. 66 % implemented natural disaster resilience planning in the past (pre-COVID-19), of which 23 % note use of natural disaster resilience actions to address COVID-19. 72 % are concerned about future complex events in the context of COVID-19, of which 31 % identify their concern as arising from natural disaster(s) during a pandemic. Four categories of resources and information are identified by respondents to help them address complex event risks arising from natural hazards during the COVID-19 pandemic: 1. Assistance navigating deep uncertainty, 2. Clear, detailed information and training, 3. Assistance with personal protective equipment (PPE) and other equipment, and 4. Access to financial assistance and financial information.
Special Publication (NIST SP) - 1258
Report Number


Business resilience, community resilience, complex event, coping, COVID-19, natural disaster, hazards, mitigation, online survey, pandemic, resilience planning, recovery, small- and medium-sized enterprise, small business, survey instrument.


Helgeson, J. , Fung, J. , Roa, A. , Zhang, Y. , Zycherman, A. , Nierenberg, C. , Butry, D. and Ramkissoon, D. (2020), Complex Event Resilience of Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises: Natural Disaster Planning During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Special Publication (NIST SP), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed May 28, 2024)


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Created September 28, 2020, Updated October 12, 2020