Most U.S. small businesses aren't prepared to cope with a disaster, severe weather or the absence of most of their workers. That's the finding of a survey released last week by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife.

The survey of 1,000 owners or operators of small companies found that nearly two-thirds have no plans in place to deal with a natural disaster or severe weather that could disrupt their businesses. Only half have plans to prevent theft or thwart intruders and 47 percent have a plan to fight a hacking or other internet invasion.

Nearly a quarter of the businesses have no plans in place to deal with any of these possibilities. The survey was conducted between Sept. 18 and Oct. 16, after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the Gulf Coast and Florida, damaging, destroying or at the least closing many companies. While the survey was being conducted, dozens of wildfires destroyed homes and businesses in California.

The survey also found that only a third of small businesses are prepared to operate with a significant number of their staffs unavailable.

Many business owners have the best of intentions when it comes to planning for contingencies, but that task often gets put off while owners focus on customers, employees and more immediate details of running their companies. But many may feel that a disaster won't hit their businesses — 68 percent said they've never had to unexpectedly close the business for an extended period.

The Chamber of Commerce and MetLife also asked owners about their confidence in the economy, local and national, and found they were more optimistic about what was happening close to home. Forty-eight percent said they feel good about the health of their local economy, up 2 percentage points from a survey three months earlier. But 38 percent said they feel good about the national economy, down from 41 percent.


Small businesses that are retailers or service providers often rely heavily on their local areas for their revenue. Finding local customers can require a different marketing strategy than seeking business nationally. SCORE, which offers free advice to small businesses, is sponsoring an online seminar with tips on getting local customers. It will be held Tuesday, Nov. 21 at 1 p.m. Eastern time. You can learn more and register at http://bit.ly/2jpgDZw .