After a Disaster

Before a Disaster | During a Disaster | After a Disaster

ESF 18

Emergency Support Function 18 was developed as part of the State Emergency Response Team to integrate disaster response with private sector organizations. ESF-18 coordinates local, state, and federal agency actions that provide immediate and short-term assistance for the needs of business, industry, and economic stabilization. ESF-18 also works with business and industry to identify available resources to meet the needs of the county and its citizens.

Santa Rosa County Emergency Management offers business and industry support through ESF 18 when the emergency operations center is activated. The level of support varies depending on the magnitude and type of incident.  ESF 18 will disseminate and coordinate information, resources and capabilities among and within the appropriate private and public sector agencies and organizations in order to enhance business disaster preparedness and facilitate post-disaster, economic and community recovery.

When assistance needs exceed local capabilities, ESF-18  serves as the primary communication and coordination link with the State ESF-18 and with local, regional, state, and federal agencies and with private sector and business-related governmental partner organizations.

After a major disaster, call the ESF 18 – Business and Industry Line at (850) 983-5353 or (850) 983-5347 to let staff know if you are open for business or if you need assistance.


Assessing the Damage

After the emergency or disaster is over, only return to your business when authorities have deemed it safe to do so.

Checking the Damage Safely

  • Use caution when entering damaged buildings. Avoid downed powerlines as they could be charged and dangerous. Metal fences touched by downed power lines may also be charged.
  • Stay away from electrical wires and wet appliances or equipment.
  • Open windows and doors to ventilate and dry your facility.
  • If there has been flooding, let an electrician inspect the building before turning on the breaker.
  • Use a flashlight or battery operated lantern to inspect for damage; avoid lighting matches or candles inside until you are sure there are no breaks in the gas lines.
  • Check on employees and notify when you expect them to report to work and how they can get updated status information.
  • Take photos of damage including high water mark for flooding.
  • Contact your insurance company.
  • Make temporary repairs to correct safety hazards and minimize further damage. This may include covering holes in the roof, walls or windows, bracing and debris removal. Always wear gloves and work boots when cleaning or removing debris.
  • Remove wet contents including carpet, furniture and building materials.
  • Keep all receipts for any repair material or services.
  • Mold growth can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than one cup of bleach in one gallon of water. Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners; mixing can produce dangerous, toxic fumes.
  • Listen to your radio or television for current information, including any assistance programs that may come available.

Reporting Damage

Private property can be reported online with


Disaster Assistance

Damage Assistance (from

Disaster can strike at any time, and even the most prepared businesses and business owners can be adversely impacted. If your business has been impacted by a disaster, the SBA can help by providing disaster assistance. 

Disaster assistance is money provided to individuals, families and businesses in an area whose property has been damaged or destroyed following a Presidential-declared disaster; and whose losses are not covered by insurance. Loans may be available to businesses that have suffered an economic loss as a result of the disaster. Assistance is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the SBA, the Farm Services Agency (FSA) and state governments.

The SBA and USDA provide low-interest loans to businesses and individuals to repair or replace real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment, inventory and business assets that have been damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster.

  • Home and Property Disaster Loans
    Renters and homeowners alike may borrow up to $40,000 to repair or replace clothing, furniture, cars, appliances, etc. damaged or destroyed in the disaster. Homeowners may apply for up to $200,000 to repair or replace their primary residence to its pre-disaster condition.
  • Disaster Assistance Loans
    SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private, nonprofit organizations to repair or replace real estate, personal property, machinery & equipment, inventory and business assets that have been damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster.
  • Economic Injury Loans
    If your small business or private, nonprofit organization has suffered economic injury, regardless of physical damage, and is located in a declared disaster area, you may be eligible for financial assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
  • Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loans
    Provides funds to eligible small businesses to meet their ordinary and necessary operating expenses that they were unable to meet due to an essential employee being "called-up" to active duty in their role as a military reservist.
  • Farm Emergency Loans
    Offers emergency loans to help producers recover from production and physical losses due to drought, flooding, other natural disasters, or quarantine.

The Farm Service Agency also provides a disaster assistance guide for farmers and ranchers for natural disaster losses resulting from drought, flood, fire, freeze, tornadoes, and pest infestation. 

FEMA Disaster Assistance

If you need assistance after a disaster, your first point of contact should be FEMA. Contact FEMA directly to apply for assistance, which includes money for housing and essential expenses, such as food and clothing; and critical personal expenses, such as medication. To learn more about FEMA and how to access assistance, explore the following resources:

Employment Assistance

  • Disaster Unemployment Assistance
    Supplies information on financial assistance for self-employed individuals who have lost their jobs due to federally declared disasters.

Tax Relief Assistance

Generator Safety

Having a portable generator can make the days after a storm much more bearable. However, they can be hazardous. Generator safety and proper handling is imperative for everyone who operates one. Because it runs on gas, (which can cause carbon monoxide poisoning) always remember never to operate a generator indoors, whether it’s in your business, garage, or other enclosed or partially enclosed areas. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be deadly. It is also important not to install the generator beside your business or in your garage because the carbon monoxide can accumulate in the attic or extra roof space of your business. Be sure to keep the generator dry. Only operate it on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure. Before touching the generator, make sure your hands are dry.

Before refilling the gas tank, turn it off and let it cool. It should not be refilled while the generator is running. Fuel spilled on hot engine parts could ignite and cause a fire. Check your oil every time you refuel and store any extra fuel away from any fuel-burning appliances.

Plug any appliances directly into a generator starting with the largest electric appliance first; then plug in other items, one at a time, or use a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord. Make sure the entire extension cord is free of cuts or tears and the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin. Grounding the generator is recommended to help prevent accidental electrical shock. NEVER plug the generator into a wall outlet. The only safe way to connect a generator to business wiring is to have a qualified electrician install a power transfer switch.

A generator is something everyone should keep in their workplace in case of a disaster. It can keep the lights and fans running as well as other important necessities such as refrigerators, microwaves, security alarm systems, garage door openers, air conditioners, televisions and computers. After a disaster, a generator can be used to run your outdoor power equipment when cleanup is needed. There are two types of generators to consider, portable and standby.

Items You Will Need to Operate a Generator

  • CO Detector
    This will protect you from any possible exposure to carbon monoxide fumes while the portable generator is in use.
  • Gas Cans
    It’s a good idea to have some extra gas cans so you don’t run out of gas for your generator. The National Agriculture Safety Database offers tips for storing gasoline:
    • Store gasoline in a well-ventilated area separate from the business, with no electrical equipment, open flames or other sources of ignition present.
    • If you do not have a suitable storage area, consider building or buying a cabinet for outside your business.
    • Once a month check for leaks from fuel tanks, engines or storage containers.
  • Fuel Stabilizers & Lubricants
    The stabilizer is used to prevent stale gas from forming due to a long storage period. It is best to change the oil after the first five hours of operation, then after every 50 hours of use.
  • Extension Cords
    You should always have these in your business because they can be used for a wide variety of operations. Heavy-duty 12-gauge or 14-gauge grounded three-prong or GFCI cords work great with the operation of a generator. REMEMBER, CONNECTING GENERATORS IMPROPERLY PUTS OUR ELECTRICAL WORKERS AT RISK FOR INJURY OR EVEN DEATH.

Permits & Contractors

If you’ve had damage to your business, it’s important that the work is done properly and that the person you hire is properly licensed. Check the Santa Rosa Inspections & Compliance website to ensure they are licensed in Santa Rosa County.

Remember, a permit is required for but not limited to:

  • Foundation repairs
  • Drywall replacement
  • Roofing repairs
  • Electrical repairs or replacement
  • Waterline or gas line repairs or replacement
  • Air conditioner/heating repairs or replacement

Please call Santa Rosa County Development services with questions about contractor or permit requirements, between 7:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at (850) 981-7000.

Warning Signs of an Unlicensed Contractor:

  • The contractor offers a verbal contract only.
  • The contractor does not have proof of insurance. A licensed contractor in Santa Rosa County is required to have workers compensation and general liability insurance.
  • The contractor asks you to obtain the permit. The permit holder is held responsible for making any changes needed to pass inspections. If you hold the permit then we expect you to make the corrections.
  • The contractor states that a permit is not required. Most often a permit is required except for minor repairs.
  • The contractor only provides a copy of a Business Tax Receipt as proof of a license. The State of Florida requires an individual to hold a State Certification, State Registration of Specialty Trade License in the field they are contracting to lawfully engage in contracting. Each will have a wallet card labeled with their name and scope of trade.

Tip: If you have already begun repairs, be sure to take photos of the damage and keep all receipts for any repairs you make. Make sure the date is clearly visible on all receipts.

Volunteering & Donations

After a disaster, both individual and groups are urgently needed to help with relief duties. The generosity and kindness of people around the country does a lot to help communities heal from the tragic consequences of disasters. However, it is very important to coordinate the help first with experienced disaster relief organizations and/or the State and local emergency management offices so that the people in need of help receive it in the most timely and effective manner.

It is vital that all volunteers work through any designated Volunteer Reception Centers or the Santa Rosa United Way. While well-meaning, volunteers not managed and handled efficiently and correctly can do more harm than good.  Too many workers, vehicles, and convergent volunteers at the scene of a disaster can create congestion and interfere with response activities, and the need to manage converging resources puts additional strain on emergency response systems. Disaster cleanup can pose unique potential dangers to volunteers who are not specially trained by experienced disaster relief organizations, so it is vital that the volunteers’ skills are matched to the volunteer task. It also helps avoid duplication of services and ensures that all impacted areas are prioritized and specific needs addressed.

As with volunteering, donations also need to be a coordinated effort. The most effective way the public can assist is to support the experienced disaster relief organizations with either financial contributions or in-kind goods and services that the organizations report are needed. Many of the experienced voluntary agencies involved in disaster relief have toll-free numbers for the public to call in order to learn what kind of donated goods might be needed in the disaster area.

It is often a mistake to assume what is needed in a disaster. Over the years, there has been considerable waste of countless tons of clothing because it was collected and sent with no prior coordination. Donors should be wary of anyone who claims that "everything is needed" in a disaster. Try to get more precise information before collecting any donated goods.

If you would like to volunteer or to find out what donations are needed after a disaster, visit for the latest information or call the Citizen Information Line at (850)983-INFO or 4636.