We are living in unpredictable times. We don’t know when exactly environmental events will strike, but we do know that wildfires, drought, hurricanes, winter storms, extreme heat, flooding and other weather events are part of our lives. There are many resources available for people to prepare their families and their homes for a disaster, however the role of employers of domestic workers is generally overlooked. As the 2019 Getty fire in California illustrated, many house cleaners, gardeners, and household managers were put in potentially life threatening positions during an environmental emergency. 

At Hand in Hand we know that most employers want to do the right thing to keep the workers in their homes safe during a natural disaster or emergency, but often don’t have the guidance to know what to do. That is why we created this resource!


5 Disaster Preparedness tips for Employers of House Cleaners

 (These tips also apply to Gardeners, Cooks, or Household Managers )

A set of emergency kit tools on a table including a mask, flashlights, water bottles, and a bag that reads "FIRST AID "

   1. Make a Plan

    • Make sure the written work agreement  you have with your cleaner includes a section on disaster preparedness and what to do if an emergency situation occurs when they are scheduled to work or when they are already at your home.  This should include the conditions in which a worker would not be expected to come in (for example during a weather alert, or if the property is not accessible safely) and the time and method by which the employer will inform the worker whether or not to come in.  
    • Provide Emergency Contacts. Make sure workers know how to communicate with you in case of an emergency, including back-up phone numbers should these be needed. Have a contact list in your home and make sure that workers know the location of the contact list and that the list is legible and language accessible. 
      • Ask the worker to share their own emergency contacts and instructions for communication, should anything happen to them. 
    • Make an emergency kit and make sure that cleaners are aware of the location of kits and items.
    • Discuss emergency exits. Ensure cleaners you employ are aware of where the exits (including windows) are located.  Make sure these exits are not obstructed.

A yellow shovel, on top of white snow

 2.  Prepare Your Home for Weather and Environmental Conditions

    • Make sure that your home is a safe location for workers in different weather and environmental conditions. Be aware of any evacuation orders or weather alerts and share them with the worker who is scheduled to come in. If the conditions are safe for a worker to come in, make sure your home is still safe; Are you driveways and pathways to enter and exit your home unobstructed, cleared of ice or snow, etc? During days with bad air quality do you have air purification systems inside your home? (Air purification is also important for helping to prevent virus transmission.) Is the temperature in your home safe and comfortable for a worker in hot or cold weather? Make sure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms are properly placed and spaced in the home and do regular checks to make sure they are working. Check batteries at least once a month. Provide portable fire extinguishers that are readily accessible and train the worker on their use.


  • Wildfire smoke:
    • Workers cannot be required to work in an area that is within an evacuation zone.
    • Do not leave the worker behind in the event of a wildfire. If workers are at your home and you hear of possible evacuation orders, communicate with the workers immediately and ensure they have transportation and know the safe routes to leave the area. 
    • Check www.AirNow.gov. When the AQI is at 151 or above, it is considered unhealthy (note that AQI of 100 or above is unhealthy for sensitive groups, which can include people with asthma or other lung conditions, children and older adults).
    •  If the AQI is at 151 or above (or above 100 if the worker or person they care for is in a sensitive group), take steps to reduce exposure including:: 
      • Avoiding outdoor activities.
      •  Changing work schedules and reducing work. 
      •  Providing more rest periods, in spaces that have filtered air like a car or indoor environment. 
      • Using portable HEPA air filters to reduce the amount of particles inside the home. 
    • Ask cleaners to notify you if they have any symptoms, including: watery or burning eyes, runny nose, coughing, rapid heartbeat or difficulty breathing. This can indicate the need to stop work. 

Cars on a flooded road driving in two separate directions

 3. Ensure Safe Transportation

Ensure that the house cleaner you employ has safe transportation to and from your home. If the weather conditions are dangerous for travel, according to weather advisories or issues like downed trees or flooding in your area, then do not ask a house cleaner to come in. If there is a weather or emergency event when the house cleaner you employ is already at your home, make sure that they have safe transportation home. We recommend paying for transportation, like a car service, especially if you know that travel is going to be arduous or delayed due to emergency situations.

A white woman wearing a mask and wearing pink gloves spraying a couch with cleaning solution.

4.  Provide PPE

Always provide the proper protective equipment and gear for house cleaners. This includes an N95 mask with 2 straps if the air quality is bad and they are expected to work in a space that is not purified. It also includes the standard protections such as gloves and hand sanitizer.

A white hand holding a smartphone showing the Pay option

 5. Pay for the Time

Finances, and fear of losing a client, are often the main reasons named by house cleaners as why they come to work in unsafe conditions. House cleaners rely on the income from any work that they have scheduled in order to meet their basic needs and support their families. If a job has to be canceled for any disaster related reason it is extremely important that workers are still compensated. Furthermore, have a conversation with the worker you employ about this ahead of time so they know what to expect.

We all want our homes to be places of safety, fairness, and positive relationships. Taking the time now to be prepared is the best way to ensure that you and the cleaners that you employ are safe whatever the future brings.