The Covid-19 pandemic has been a massive disaster in Brazil, causing more than 350,000 deaths as of April 2021. Moreover, President Jair Bolsonaro suggested that already marginalised groups should take what came to them, as if they were an expendable surplus in his necropolitical perspective. However, civil society initiatives are emerging to tackle the impacts of this crisis. This paper adds to current literature on the forms and levels of resistance to disasters, using primary and secondary data pertaining to three key Brazilian groups: domestic workers; the urban poor in favelas; and indigenous Amazonians. The analysis indicates that their historical, political resistance has been a foundation upon which to develop disaster mitigation and their actions have built on and gone beyond previous modes of organising. More specifically, their responses have replaced a ‘present–absent’ federal government, entailed local, innovative adaptations, led to new public–private sector relations, and may offer the prospect of consolidation.