What to know about evacuating to a shelter during a hurricane

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If an evacuation order is issued, officials strongly encourage you to make every effort to leave the area. As public shelters may be crowded, other evacuation options may include:

  • Staying at your house if you are not in an area under an evacuation order, or if you do not live in a mobile or manufactured home.
  • Going to the home of a friend or family member who lives outside the evacuation zones.
  • Checking into a hotel or motel that’s outside the evacuation zones.
  • Traveling to a part of Florida that is not under an evacuation order.

What You Need to Know About Shelters

If you do not have a safe place to go, head for a shelter. Lists of local shelters are available on county websites, as well as in this guide. But, when planning where you’ll go, remember that some shelter locations may not be open and operating if they are too close to the storm and its path. Follow WINK News, The Weather Authority, via website, television, or radio for the latest information.

If you must go to a shelter, here are some things for you to consider:

  • There is a shortage of evacuation shelters. If you have a safe place to evacuate to, plan to use that alternate location rather than a public shelter.
  • Shelters are not hotels. They do not provide any conveniences, luxuries, or amenities. Bring your family’s disaster supply kit to ensure proper provisions.
  • Food and water should be available, but there may be a slight delay in initial service.
  • Cots are not provided in general-population shelters.
  • Weapons, smoking, or alcoholic beverages ARE NOT allowed in shelters. In fact, arriving at a public shelter with weapons or liquor under any circumstances could get you arrested.
  • Service animals are allowed at all shelters, but family pets are not allowed in public shelters. Pets are permitted only in shelters designated as “pet-friendly.” All service animals must have vaccination records and be caged. You must also provide their food, water, leash, and waste management.

Items to bring to a shelter

  • Drinking water
  • Snacks or special foods, including foods for special dietary requirements
  • Lawn chair
  • Bedroll
  • Pillows and blankets
  • Books, magazines, or electronics with headphones
  • Medications
  • Change of clothing
  • Personal hygiene items (toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, etc.)
  • Important documents and ID (driver’s license or passport, proof of residence, etc.)
  • If you are medically vulnerable, you should also remember to bring your own personal health equipment and hygiene products

About Special Needs Shelters

A special needs shelter is a temporary emergency facility capable of providing care to residents whose medical condition may require the use of electrical equipment, oxygen, or dialysis, as well as to individuals with physical or cognitive conditions requiring assistance from medical professionals. Those eligible to evacuate to a special needs shelter should pre-register with Emergency Management. Here’s what you should know about special needs shelters:

  • You must register every year. Your application is good for one calendar year only.
  • You must have a companion or caregiver accompany you during your time at the shelter. Typically, there are limited staff members on hand.
  • You will receive a confirmation letter and instructions confirming that you’re on the registry for a special needs shelter, as well as what to expect if those shelters are opening.
  • Note that, although special needs shelters provide more care than a general shelter, they do not provide the level of care found in a medical facility.

About Pet-Friendly Shelters

Prepare a pet supply kit that includes:

  • Non-perishable food
  • Water
  • Medications
  • Sturdy cage or carrier
  • Collar and leash
  • Up-to-date vaccination records

Also consider:

  • Keeping several photos of your pet with you to help with identification if you’re separated.
  • Placing identification on your pet’s collar.
  • Using a microchip to identify your pet. Check with your county to see if your local animal services department offers a microchipping program.

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