An emergency event or evacuation is stressful for everyone. But if you or a family member has special needs, it can be especially unsettling knowing that you’ll need to rely on others for care, or even transportation. Understanding the services offered in your area, such as a local special needs registry, can help you prepare, give you peace of mind and possibly, save a life.
Who is Best Served in a Special Needs Shelter?
Any child or adult who needs assistance during an evacuation because of a physical, mental, cognitive or sensory disability should apply — particularly you need electricity to operate medical equipment, help with mobility, routine health monitoring or someone to help administer medications.
Not everyone with special medical needs requires a special needs shelter. Since space is often limited, these shelters are reserved for those needing a greater level of care than can be provided in general evacuation shelters.
It’s important to understand that special needs shelters cannot provide complex medical care, such as ambulance transport or ventilators. Talking with your physician and caregivers now to prepare an emergency plan is essential — and may be lifesaving — when disaster strikes.
Even with medical conditions or special needs, most can be safe and well cared for in regular evacuation shelters, hotels or in the homes of friends or family.
How to Register for a Special Needs Shelter
While the application process varies from area to area, it’s normally a matter of completing a form that provides information about you or your loved one’s medical needs. This information will be used for informational purposes only, and is protected by HIPPA laws. Follow these links for registration details for your area or to contact the Health and Human Services department in your state:
These helpful sites also provide a number of resources to help you best prepare, and that show all shelter locations so you can find the one nearest you.
Mark Your Calendar
Since needs can change, you’ll be required to reapply once a year. Mark your calendar to complete a new application at the same time each year. Don’t let it slip off your radar — your registration can provide lifesaving care for you or your loved one when you need it most.
Evacuate, Don’t Hesitate
While notifications can vary by area, as a general rule your county’s 911 emergency system will notify you in the event of an evacuation. If you are able, secure your home and then proceed to the special needs shelter. If you require transportation, you’ll be given further instructions.
If you’re instructed to evacuate, do so immediately — don’t hesitate. Your response time can have a significant impact on your safety.
Know What to Bring to the Special Needs Shelter
There are some items you’ll want to bring for you and your loved one’s personal comfort, such as toiletries, a few changes of clothing, a pillow and blankets and maybe a book or two. You may also want to bring cash, if possible. If you do, bring enough for any small purchases you may want to make, but not enough that you’ll be concerned about it being stolen.
But more importantly, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared to grab medical supplies and equipment you’ll need for you or your loved one on a moment’s notice:
- A 2-week supply of any daily prescribed medication is recommended
- Batteries or chargers for wheelchairs, hearing aids or other medical devices
- Diabetic equipment if needed
- Oxygen and oxygen supplies
- Wheelchair, walker, cane or other mobility equipment
A cell phone and charger are also recommended so you can get in touch with your loved ones when needed.
We’re Here in Your Time of Need
We care about your whole health and are always here to help you make a plan. You can book an appointment with a doctor to talk about you or your loved one’s medical needs and make sure that you know what to do if disaster strikes.