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Eliciting Lessons from Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) for Natural Disaster Resilience Planning and Recovery During the COVID-19 Pandemic: SME Complex Event Resilience



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


Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up 44% of U.S. economic activities and are the lifeline for many local economies, employing 59 million people in 2018 (SBA 2018, 2019). In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, small- and medium-sized (SMEs) are greatly impacted through supply- and demand-side difficulties, such as limiting customer interactions, employee availability, as well as larger supply chain issues. The numbers are quickly evolving, but early predictions estimate 15,000 retail store closures and 3 million jobs lost (Bivens, 2020; Thomas, 2020) with minority and immigrant-owned businesses disproportionately affected (Fairlie, 2020). As COVID-19 conditions persist, the chances are high that populations around the US and the world will experience natural disasters (e.g., heat waves, floods, hurricanes, fire, and drought) during the period of virus transmission and into the period of recovery (e.g., Phillips et al., 2020). SMEs in areas vulnerable to these natural disasters and other extreme weather events (EWEs) are particularly noteworthy in the context of COVID-19. This Special Publication Report presents a mixed-method research approach to study the impact of COVID-19 on SMEs and a subset thereof which had experienced a natural disaster or EWE pre- or during the COVID-19 transmission period. The survey also gauges the concern that such events may affect SMEs as the effects of COVID-19 persist in the future and during a future recovery phase. The presented survey was conducted online and combines quantitative and qualitative questions to document (1) the novel resilience-based mitigation actions employed during the COVID-19 pandemic by SMEs, (2) challenges in implementing resilience-based mitigation actions, (3) use of past strategies and approaches to provide assistance to the current situation, and (4) planned resilience actions and strategies. As such, the questions are framed specific to COVID-19 pandemic conditions; however, many are generali
Report Number
DCI 002


Adaptive capacity, built infrastructure, business recovery, business resilience, community resilience, coping, extreme weather events, Micro-, Small-, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs), mitigation, resilience planning, Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), survey instrument


Helgeson, J. , Fung, J. , Zhang, Y. , Roa, A. , Zycherman, A. , Nierenberg, C. , Butry, D. and Ramkissoon, D. (2020), Eliciting Lessons from Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) for Natural Disaster Resilience Planning and Recovery During the COVID-19 Pandemic: SME Complex Event Resilience, Other, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed May 25, 2024)


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Created September 29, 2020