Clarke Stevenson
Clarke Stevenson
CivicSpark AmeriCorps Fellow

Preparing Sierra Businesses for a Natural Disaster

Growing up, my parents practiced all their presentations on my sister and me. They were just starting their dream small business and implementing an initial marketing push to get their message out to the public. I remember recording my mom while she presented with sunglasses to block viewers from seeing her read the cue cards my sister held behind me. Every dinner since then has been commandeered by conversations of consultants, visions for their work or other business-related updates. It was a huge effort for them as much as it is for anyone else starting their own small business. While I was always informed on the HR side of the things - aka. the internal threats a business owner might experience - I never thought too much about the external threats a business encounters, like wildfire. 

COMM TruckeeFire 2001 IMGIt was not until I started working on the the Business Resilience Initiative that I learned one in four small businesses never reopen after a natural disaster strikes. Or that nine in 10 fail within a year unless they are able to reopen within five days of a disaster. Through a partnership between SBC’s Sierra Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Partnership (Sierra CAMP) and Valley Vision (VV), a free, action-oriented workshop will be held to understand more about preparing a business for natural disasters. The workshops will specifically be focusing on wildfires.

The October 2017 fires alone totaled over $9 billion in property damage, and the state has spent $700 million on wildfire suppression costs between July 2017 and January 2018. The 2017 Thomas fire has won the title of California’s largest fire, five out of the 20 most destructive fires in California have occured in the last year alone, and 14 of the top 20 largest fires in state history have occurred in the last 20 years, with experts expecting wildfire frequency and intensity to increase in the future. With this in mind, we are hoping to underscore the importance of small businesses in mountain communities. They are the backbone of rural economies, yet remain at high risk of closing after a disaster. 

At the half-day Disaster-Proof Your Business workshops, businesses will learn how to prepare their people, their operations, and their assets before disaster strikes. We will cover things like:

  • Understanding your risks and your environment
  • Assessing your readiness
  • Taking action
  • Updating and testing your resilience plan
  • Engaging with community resiliency efforts

If you would like to attend this free event or know someone who might, we are hosting two workshops: (1) City of Sonora on April 25th, and (2) Grass Valley on May 17th (link to come). Simply click through to find more information on the Sonora Business Resiliency Workshop and be sure to share the information with your network.

These days, when I get the chance to sit down at the dinner table with my parents, I finally understand that what I once thought was the droll of business planning is actually the well thought mental map of maintaining something as vital and vulnerable as a small business. Now, I am often the one who is not only following the conversation, but is offering new information (and even guidance!) on contemporary business planning resources. I’m committed to making sure neither my parents, nor any other Sierra small businesses, fall victim to the major challenges following a natural disaster.

For questions or comments regarding the Business Resilience Initiative workshops, please contact Sierra CAMP Project Manager, Nikki Caravelli at (530) 562-4943 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..