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The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote, and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, and community efforts.

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Special Needs Shelters

Contact: Florida Health

Register for a Special Needs Shelter

Special needs shelters are designed to meet the needs of persons who require assistance that exceeds services provided at a general population shelter. A special needs shelter is a place to go when there is no other sheltering option. Shelters may be activated during an emergency event to provide 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 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 special needs shelter varies based upon a community's needs and available resources. Contact your Emergency Management Office to learn about local services.


Locations and Expectations for Special Needs Shelters 

  • Special needs shelters 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
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.       

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. 

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: 


Disaster preparedness for individuals with special medical needs:


Registering for a special needs shelter:
English with American Sign Language  |  Spanish  |  Creole

Who should go to a special needs shelter:

Preparedness for deaf/hard of hearing:

Statutes, Rules and Special Needs Data: 

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 Shelter Interagency Committee: 

Section 381.0303 (6), F.S. authorizes the State Surgeon General to establish an interagency committee (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 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