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10 Steps to Take Now to Help Your Store Survive an Emergency

Should your retail store be hit by a natural disaster or other emergency, you will be able to take action more quickly and proactively if you've already done the prep work to develop a disaster response plan. In the moment, you won't have time to research cleanup companies or what to do about a downed power line. (Stay away and call authorities!) Plus, the stress of the experience can make it easy for you to overlook important steps. That's why preplanning can be crucial to reduce the vulnerability of your retail store after a disruption. Make an emergency plan now, train your store employees in what to do, and keep hard copies of the plan on and off-site.

What should be included in your emergency plan? Take a look at this checklist:

  1. Identify types of losses that could affect your store and assess the degree of risk. What types of disasters could hit your area, your suppliers, or customers? Identify operations crucial to survival and recovery.
  2. Make sure business records (sales data, customer lists, tax information, legal documents, etc.) are stored and backed up at an off-site location. Work with vendors to ensure employee data also is stored at a secure, off-site location. 
  3. Line up multiple vendors that can provide outsourced services in case of an emergency. Create a contact list of key vendors and business partners, and keep a copy of the list at an off-site location accessible by multiple employees rather than one person.
  4. Determine an off-site meeting place for your employees in case of an emergency.
  5. Ensure exits are clear and meet regulations to allow for proper evacuation. Determine where the staff could shelter in place during a weather emergency.
  6. Take into account security needs to protect both people and property during an emergency.
  7. If applicable, ensure vendors have plans for payroll continuity.
  8. Make sure those involved in your emergency plan know their roles. Train alternates in case backup help is needed.
  9. Practice crisis communication with employees. Invest in an alternate form of communication in the event phones, email or computer networks go down or are inaccessible.
  10. Review the emergency plan at least annually and update as needed.

Post-disaster, if your area has been hit by lightning, tornado, hurricane, hail or high winds, keep these tips in mind:


  • Report downed power lines, flooded roads, damaged water mains and damaged electrical equipment.
  • Be careful of debris.
  • Check for gas leaks.
  • Listen to the instructions of local, state or federal officials.
  • Return home or to your store only when authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and 1 foot of fast-moving water can sweep your vehicle away. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines and may hide dangerous debris or places where the ground is washed away.
  • If safe, do what you can to prevent further damage to your property (such as covering a damaged roof with a tarp, etc.).
  • Photograph the damage to your property when safe to do so.

Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Find more store survival tips in CNA's special retail report.

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The purpose of this Guide is to provide information, rather than advice or opinion. It is accurate to the best of the author's knowledge as of the date of publication. Accordingly, this Guide should not be viewed as a substitute for the guidance and recommendations of a retained professional. Any references to non-CNA websites are provided solely for convenience, and CNA disclaims any responsibility with respect to such websites.

To the extent this Guide contains any examples, please note that they are for illustrative purposes only and any similarity to actual individuals, entities, places or situations is unintentional and purely coincidental. In addition, any examples are not intended to establish any standards of care, to serve as legal advice appropriate for any particular factual situations, or to provide an acknowledgement that any given factual situation is covered under any CNA insurance policy. Please remember that only the relevant insurance policy can provide the actual terms, coverages, amounts, conditions and exclusions for an insured. All CNA products and services may not be available in all states and may be subject to change without notice.

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