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Building Business Resiliency in Wildfire-Risk Communities

Business resiliency is of vital importance to businesses themselves, and to the communities of which they’re a part. Recognizing that, Valley Vision and partner Sierra Business Council recently brought business resiliency workshops to small businesses in two rural communities in the Sierra Nevada, Sonora and Grass Valley. The workshops, funded by a grant from PG&E, are designed to inform and motivate small business owners and leaders to put plans in place for their businesses in the event of wildfire (or other) disasters.

The workshops are based on Valley Vision’s existing Business Resiliency Toolkit, which provides an easy-to-use, step-wise process way for small businesses develop their own business resiliency plan. Throughout, the Toolkit directs business owner/operators to respected existing resources, such as Kaiser’s Hazard Vulnerability Assessment tool, to most effectively get their disaster planning work done.

The resilience of small businesses is increasingly important to communities for several interconnected reasons:

  • First, thirty-years of national data show that natural disasters are increasing in frequency, severity, damage, and unpredictability. And as we saw all too clearly with events in late 2017, the drought and pest damage to our wildlands is resulting in wildfires of greater intensity and ferocity than ever before.
  • Next, research consistently shows that small businesses are the least prepared for, and the least able to recover from, disasters that strike, whether community-based, like a wildfire, or localized, like a building fire. After an event that causes small businesses to close unexpectedly for five days, 40-60% never reopen.
  • Additionally, small businesses contribute the majority of employment and wages in communities across the country. Particularly in more self-contained rural towns, the small business community is the backbone of local economies – so broad-based small business closures can have significant and long-lasting impacts to the economic health of those communities.

For these reasons, and others, Valley Vision and Sierra Business Council teamed up with local chambers of commerce, and PG&E’s financial support, to bring the Disaster-Proof Your Business Workshop to Sonora and Grass Valley.

In a half-day format, small business owner/operators learned from experts about the five steps of the Business Resiliency Toolkit.

  1. Understand Your Risks and Your Environment
  2. Assess Your Readiness
  3. Take Action
  4. Test and Update Your Plan
  5. Engage with Community Resiliency Efforts

Because the Toolkit is designed to help businesses prepare for a disaster of any type, Valley Vision and Sierra Business Council also developed wildfire-specific recommended actions.

For more information about the Toolkit or the Disaster-Proof Your Business workshop, please contact us!


Meg Arnold is Managing Director of Valley Vision, leading the Clean Economy and Innovation and Entrepreneurship Strategies.

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