Every year, insurance departments recommend ways that consumers can prepare for various disasters; they may suggest purchasing flood insurance in susceptible areas, mitigating fire hazards, preparing an earthquake supply kit, creating a hurricane evacuation plan, etc.

This year is different; the presence of COVID-19 makes any evacuation more complicated than normal. It will be harder to find places to evacuate to as shelters will fill up faster due to distancing guidelines. In addition to social distancing while at the shelter, it will be important to clean and disinfect to prevent infection. For example, those setting up shelters for individuals and families displaced by the recent floods in Michigan are recommending that people use hand sanitizer every two hours and wipe down surfaces with disinfectant.

Remember The Seven P’s – Keep These Ready in Case Immediate Evacuation is Required

  • People and Pets
  • Papers, Phone Numbers and Important Documents
  • Prescriptions, Vitamins, and Eyeglasses
  • Personal Hygiene (hand sanitizer, masks, gloves, disinfectant wipes)
  • Pictures and Irreplaceable Memorabilia
  • Personal Computer
  • “Plastic” (credit cards, debit cards) and CASH, CASH, CASH

Below are several checklists that can be used by anyone in an area at risk of severe situations to help keep themselves, their families and their property as safe as possible.

  1. For Any Disaster
  2. Wildfires
  3. Floods
  4. Earthquakes
  5. Hurricanes

For Any Disaster

  • Build a Kit – Dept of Homeland Security
  • Keep important papers – birth certificates, passports, deeds, medical records, insurance papers, pet records in a safe, dry place. Safety deposit boxes are recommended, you can keep photocopies in a safe dry place at home.
  • Make an inventory of all personal contents, provide a copy to your insurance agent or a friend. There are various apps where you can store the information and photos online. An inventory helps ensure you get the full value of your claim. Photos are tremendously helpful.
  • Monitor news and weather for important alerts and evacuation notices.
  • Make a list of shelters you may have to go to; you may need to go farther from home than normal due to a pandemic and quarantine procedures. You may also want to locate medical centers in the area you plan to evacuate in, in case you become ill. If you have pets, make sure the shelters on your list take pets. Be sure to take pet food and pet records with you if you must evacuate.
  • Be sure your car is full of gas and ready for travel. Be ready to leave when an evacuation order is given.
  • Have necessities packed in a go bag; medications, records, change of clothes, pet food, cash.
  • Pack hand sanitizer, masks, some stable foodstuffs.
  • Have your insurance agent/insurance company’s phone number in case of emergency Have a pre-arranged meeting place to connect with family in case phones do not work. Make sure children know where to meet up in case you are separated.
  • In event of pending disaster, make sure you have additional cash on hand (cash is king in disasters).
  • Follow local guidelines for safety; if told to evacuate don’t wait until the last minute to do so; many people are trapped and can’t get to safety when that happens.


  • Insurance – Most homeowners’ insurance covers fire damage. But if you live in a high-risk area, you may need to pay for additional coverage. Be sure to contact your agent/broker and review your coverage.
  • Have 100 feet of defensible space if home or business is in or near forest or wildland interface area.
  • Clear all flammable vegetation- twigs, leaves, dead limbs.
  • Remove vines from sides of structure.
  • Trim dead limbs that overhang roofs.
  • Prune trees and shrubs that are within 15 feet of chimney or stovepipe outlet.
  • Mow regularly.
  • Keep a 10-foot area around any propane tanks or barbeque areas.
  • Keep firewood stacked 100 feet away from dwelling and uphill.
  • Clear any combustible or flammable articles at least 20 feet away from buildings.
  • Put yard waste in a yard waste bag – do not burn.


  • Determine if you are in a flood zone 
  • If you are in a flood zone, consider purchasing flood insurance. There is a 30 DAY WAITING period for coverage to take effect Please visit the National Flood Insurance Program 
  • Elevate and anchor critical utilities such as electric panels, propane tanks, appliances.
  • Elevate property in basements or lower areas.
  • Check the sump pump to ensure it works, add battery backup if it does not already have one.
  • Clear debris from gutters and downspouts.
  • Where do downspouts discharge? If they discharge close to the building, consider running out a length of pipe to relocate discharge away from the building and basement.
  • When flood is predicted or imminent, remove furniture, rugs, and other belongings as well as yourself to higher ground.
  • Check your roof; floods often result from rains, so you want to be sure your roof can withstand not only rain but wind.
  • Remove loose items from the yard; high winds may pick up and carry property away, as will flood waters.
  • Do you have other than collision (comprehensive) coverage for your car? It provides coverage for flood damage to your vehicle. However, all vehicles and equipment should be moved to higher ground if possible.


  • Visit the California Earthquake Authority to review your risk and consider purchasing insurance coverage. 
  • Keep a steady supply of batteries and replace them on a regular basis
  • Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Collect an extra supply of food for babies, people on restricted diets and even your pets!
  • Have several flashlights placed throughout your home. Test them on a regular basis
  • Know your local emergency radio stations.
  • Make sure your kit is well stocked, especially with bandages and disinfectants.
  • Have your fire extinguisher recharged regularly.
  • Store water in air-tight containers and replace about every six months.
  • Keep an adjustable wrench for turning off gas and water mains. A portable stove and matches are also important, and don’t forget the can opener!
  • Keep at least a one-week supply of medications, eyeglasses, blankets and sleeping bags, extra cash and any other goods you think you may need during an earthquake emergency.
  • Develop a Family Plan: 1) Before the Quake; 2) Secure Your Home; 3) During the Quake; 4) After the Quake. Click here for more details


  • Know the Difference:
    • Hurricane Watch – Hurricane conditions are a threat within 48 hours. Review your hurricane plans, keep informed and be ready to act if a warning is issued
    • Hurricane Warning – Hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours. Complete your storm preparations and leave the area if directed to do so by authorities
  • Because standard homeowners’ insurance doesn’t cover flooding, it’s important to have protection from the floods associated with hurricanes, tropical storms, heavy rains and other conditions that impact the U.S. For more information on flood insurance, please visit the National Flood Insurance Program website.
  • Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).
  • Check your disaster supplies and replace or restock as needed
  • Bring in anything that can be picked up by the wind (bicycles, lawn furniture).
  • Close windows, doors and hurricane shutters. If you do not have hurricane shutters, close and board up all windows and doors with plywood.
  • Turn the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting and keep them closed as much as possible so that food will last longer if the power goes out.
  • Turn off propane tanks and unplug small appliances
  • Fill your car’s gas tank.
  • Talk with members of your household and create an evacuation plan. Planning and practicing your evacuation plan will minimize confusion and fear during the event.
  • Learn about your community’s hurricane response plan. Plan routes to local shelters, register family members with special medical needs as required and make plans for your pets to be cared for.
  • Evacuate if advised by authorities. Be careful to avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges.

Please reach out to your Sequoia Risk Advisor to discuss your specific questions and/or needs related to disaster preparedness.

The information and materials on this blog are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to constitute legal or tax advice. Information provided in this blog may not reflect the most current legal developments and may vary by jurisdiction. The content on this blog is for general informational purposes only and does not apply to any particular facts or circumstances. The use of this blog does not in any way establish an attorney-client relationship, nor should any such relationship be implied, and the contents do not constitute legal or tax advice. If you require legal or tax advice, please consult with a licensed attorney or tax professional in your jurisdiction. The contributing authors expressly disclaim all liability to any persons or entities with respect to any action or inaction based on the contents of this blog

Mary Beth Downs – Mary Beth Downs is a Senior Risk Advisor for Sequoia, providing property and casualty consulting services to our clients helping them protect assets, scale in the marketplace, and manage risk. As a Bay Area resident for the past 27 years, she enjoys volunteering in her local community and traveling within the state as much as possible.