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“A Culture of Preparedness”: Get Need-to-Know Storm Safety and Insurance Advice


California black media

Through Maxim Elramsisy, California black media

At least 20 people were killed as a result of the “Parade of Atmospheric Rivers” that drenched the California landscape. The historic storm system, which has produced flooding, mudslides, levee breaches, heavy snowfall, hurricane-force winds and even a tornado, began late last year and continued into the new year.

On January 12, Governor Gavin Newsom requested an expedited declaration of major disaster for California, which was approved by President Biden on January 14 in Merced, Sacramento, and Santa Cruz counties. On January 18, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Monterey counties were also approved.

A report of a major disaster means damage is beyond the combined capabilities of local and state governments to respond. As a result, affected areas are eligible for a range of federal aid programs.

“The great storm event, the great weather system that created atmospheric rivers, is coming to an end,” said Diana Crofts-Pelayo, deputy director of crisis communications and public affairs at the California Office of Emergency Services. “It is not too late to be prepared for the next emergency. It really is the duty of all of us to talk as loved ones, family and friends about contingency plans should another storm come. Have an emergency kit read if you need to leave your home quickly. Communicating and checking in with loved ones will be part of this overall culture of preparedness and resilience.”

Coming home after a flood

When returning home after a flood, “the best advice is really to avoid floodwaters,” says Jason Wilken, Career Epidemiology Field Officer at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

“It can contain toilet waste and bad germs. It may contain dangerous chemicals, including things like gasoline, and it may contain hidden heavy or sharp objects,” he warned.

Flood water can also come into contact with downed power lines, and flooding can also trigger animal migration. So maybe there are live or dead animals in floodwaters,” he added. “If you must come into contact with flood water, wear rubber gloves and rubber boots. If you have children, don’t allow them to play in or near floodwaters,” Wilken said. “Don’t let them play with toys or anything that got wet from the flood water until those things can be disinfected.”

Wilken said consuming contaminated food or water could make you very sick. “Except for undamaged cans or metal bags, throw away any fresh or packaged food that has been touched by flood water.” The outside of the containers must still be disinfected. He recommends using a tablespoon of bleach in a gallon of water for cleaning surfaces and utensils. Importantly, he notes, “NEVER MIX CLEANERS,” as this can cause dangerous chemical reactions.

If the hard surfaces in your home have been wet for more than 48 hours, mold may be present. Drying your home and removing items damaged by water is the best way to prevent mold growth.

Be careful and know the source of the water you consume. Sealed bottled water may be safe, but if the surface of the bottle is contaminated, boil it for a minute. If you get municipal tap water, listen to your local authorities about safety. If you get your water from a well, contact your local environmental office or your water department for advice on testing and disinfecting your water source.

Navigate California’s social safety net


Visit for disaster relief and additional resources. Apply for federal assistance through FEMA Disaster Assistance at or call 1(800) 621-3362. For more information about help, local resources or for app “For the more than 5 million individuals currently participating in Calfresh, [including] those who have had power outages associated with these storm events and lost the food resources they purchased can replace them within 10 days of their loss by contacting their county social services department,” said Kim Johnson, director of the California Department of social services.

A phone number, “The Hope Line” 1(833)317-HOPE (4673), has been created “for those affected to easily navigate this change,” she says.

Seniors who are isolated can call “The Friendship Line” at 1 (888) 670-1360.

Be prepared. Help the vulnerable

The importance of timely information cannot be underestimated. Be aware of your surroundings. Sign up for free emergency alerts at, authorities say.

“Every time there are disasters like this, there are individuals who are disproportionately impacted by those disasters,” said Vance Taylor, chief of the Office of Access and Functional Needs in the Office of Emergency Services. “We are talking about older adults, people with disabilities, people who are economically disadvantaged, or people with transportation disadvantages, people with access or functional needs, and to make sure our emergency management systems, programs and services are as being rolled out that is fair and accessible to all is a top priority,” said Taylor.

Quick insurance tips

Comprehensive auto insurance covers damage to your car – and “loss of use” coverage can pay for a rental car if you need one.

The home and tenant insurance covers damage caused by fallen trees and wind. Mudslides and debris flows caused by landscape scars from a previous wildfire are also covered by home and renters insurance.

Flood insurance is sold separately through the National Flood Insurance Program and begins 30 days after purchase in most cases.

Tips for filing insurance claims:

  • Make sure you have a copy of your policy
  • Contact your insurance agent
  • Record conversations with your insurance company in a ‘claim diary’, including who you talked to, what you talked about, what arrangements were made
  • Track all expenses while away from home (hotel bills, restaurant expenses)
  • Take photos/videos of the damage, but do not start remediation/cleaning until the loss adjuster has carried out an inspection
  • Don’t get scammed. Use licensed contractors

For more information, contact the Department of Insurance for assistance at 1(800)927-4357 or visit