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Special Needs Shelters

Contact: Florida Health

A Special Needs Shelter (SpNS) is for "someone who during periods of evacuation or emergency, requires sheltering assistance, due to physical impairment, mental impairment, cognitive impairment or sensory disabilities”. The Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Preparedness and Response, created the Guidelines for Special Needs Shelters which has been incorporated by rule (Chapter 64-3, Florida Administrative Code). Local emergency management agencies are responsible for the designation and operation of special needs shelters during times of emergency or disaster and the closure of the facilities following an emergency or disaster.

Special Needs Shelters are designed to meet the needs of persons who require assistance that exceeds services provided at a general population shelter. A SpNS is a place to go when there is noroom full of special need shelter people other sheltering option. Shelters may be activated during an emergency event to provide mass care for people who cannot safely remain in their home. Special Needs Shelters are intended to provide, to the extent possible under emergency conditions, an environment that can sustain an individual's level of health.

If a person is medically stable but needs help with basic tasks or uses an electronic medical device and has no other evacuation options, they should pre-register for a SpNS. Click here to register for a Special Needs Shelter.  

Eligibility for Special Needs Shelters 

• People with special medical needs
• People whose care exceeds the basic first aid provided at general population shelters
• People with impairments or disabilities who are medically stable and do not require medical care
• People with disabilities are not required to go to a Special Needs Shelter. Some people with disabilities can be safely accommodated in a general population shelter.

The capabilities of each SpNS varies based upon a community's needs and available resources. Click here to contact an Emergency Management Office to learn about local services.

Locations and Expectations for SpNS:  

• SpNS are often setup in public facilities
• Food and water is available, but shelters may not be able to accommodate special dietary needs
• Shelter staff only offer basic medical assistance and monitoring
• Complex medical equipment or care is not available
• Clients and their caregivers will have a small sleeping area
• Back-up electricity for light and essential medical equipment will be available 

Prior to going to a shelter:  

Personal Contact and Medical Information List:
Compile a list of friends or family who can be contacted during an evacuation. Include the name and phone number of a primary medical provider as well as the names and doses of all medications.       

Make a Shelter Kit:
Assemble an emergency supply kit in a duffle bag or backpack and label it with the client’s name and phone number. Store the supply kit in a place that is dry and easily accessible. Include all medications and medical equipment including batteries and power cords. A more detailed checklist of suggested items to bring to a shelter can be found on this Shelter Items Checklist for Special Needs Client.

Gather Important Documents:
Store an emergency contact list and documents in your emergency supply kit in case your home is damaged. Keep the information in a safe place and give copies to your personal support network and out of area contact.

Additional Information and Resources: 

What to Take to a Shelter
What to Expect in a Shelter
Sheltering with Your Pet or Service Animal
Other Disaster Planning Guides
Florida Department of Health County Health Departments

What persons with special medical needs should know for disaster preparedness - English   Spanish   Haitian-Creole

SpNS Videos:
Special Medical Needs? Register for a Special Needs Shelter
English with American Sign Language

Special Needs Shelter – What you Need to Know - Pasco County Health Department

Who should go to a Special Needs Shelter – What to Expect
English with American Sign Language
Spanish with American Sign Language
Creole with American Sign Language

Preparedness for Persons who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing
(with American Sign Language (ASL))

Statutes, Rules and Special Needs Data: 

F.S. Section 252.355—Registry of persons with special needs; notice.
F.S. Section 252.356—Emergency and disaster planning provisions to assist persons with disabilities or limitations.
F.S. Section 381.0303—Healthcare Practitioner Recruitment for Special Needs Shelters.
FAC 64-3—Florida Administrative Code—Rules related to Special Needs Shelters.
Functional Needs Data by County and Region

Special Needs Shelter Interagency Committee: 

Section 381.0303 (6) F.S. authorizes the State Surgeon General to establish an interagency committee with the State Surgeon General (or an appointed designee) to serve as the committee’s chair. The committee, to address issues addressed in the state’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP), identifies and works to resolve special needs sheltering challenges. The committee also addresses high priority issues identified by members and key stakeholders.

The goal of the Special Needs Shelter Interagency Committee is to facilitate the development of policies, procedures, and best practices for the state’s Special Needs Shelters, focusing on people with special medical needs as well as the state’s vulnerable populations. The interagency committee is championed by the Bureau of Preparedness and Response and includes members from different state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and other local associations.

Meetings of the committee are held in Tallahassee, and members of the committee serve at the expense of the agencies or organizations they represent. The committee uses teleconference or videoconference capabilities to ensure statewide input and participation.

Upcoming Committee Meetings:
No meetings scheduled at this time