Residents of all ages with special needs, those without transportation and the elderly, require extra attention and preparation in order to stay protected in weather emergencies.
Though Pinellas County government has education programs in place to help these citizens prepare and find safe shelter, the responsibility for storm preparation rests with individuals and their families or caregivers. That planning needs to happen early. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE STORM IS RAGING. Emergency personnel may not be able to respond when high winds make road travel hazardous. Plan for safe shelter now.
Special Needs Shelter Locations
Residents with certain medical conditions can get help during an evacuation. Special needs shelters will open for those requiring minimal medical assistance.
If you have your own transportation to a special needs shelter, preregistration is not required, but it is strongly recommended. If you are registered and need transportation to a shelter, your local fire department will contact you before an evacuation. You may bring your caregiver and/or family with you to a special needs shelter. Please note....you are not obligated to go to a special needs shelter once registered, if you have made other safe and secure arrangements.
- Fill out one of two forms to register:
- Fill out and print this fillable pdf form
and mail to:
Pinellas County Emergency Management
Public Safety Complex
10750 Ulmerton Rd., Building 1, Suite 267
Largo, FL 33778
- Fill out form online using a digital signature - submit online
- Other ways to get a special needs form:
- Call Pinellas County Emergency Management at (727) 464-3800 to receive a form by mail.
- You can also call your nearest fire department or home health care provider.
- Fill out and print this fillable pdf form
- Once registered, you will be contacted for more information. After a medical needs review, your eligibility will be assessed. If you don’t qualify for a special needs shelter, other options will be discussed with you.
- Service animals that have been individually trained to do work or perform a task for a person with a disability are allowed in any shelter; there is no registration requirement.
Pets are only allowed in pet-friendly shelters with prior registration. If you are registered for a special needs shelter and you have no other options for your pet, call Pinellas County Animal Services at (727) 582-2600 to register your pet. Animal Services will make arrangements for your pet to be taken to a host home.
Special Needs Shelter Locations:
Assistance at a special needs shelter is limited to basic medical monitoring and back-up electricity for lighting. The shelter will be inside a school and will likely be crowded and noisy. Cots may not be available for everyone. While this is a safer location to ride out a storm, it is not for everyone. Many citizens require more comfortable accommodations as mobility restrictions make it impossible to sleep on the floor or a cot. In these cases, the Host Homes program is an excellent alternative.
Please see our Public Shelter List to see when these shelters are open.
- Dunedin Middle School - 70 Patricia Ave., Dunedin
- Oak Grove Middle School - 1370 S. Belcher Rd., Clearwater
- John Hopkins Middle School - 701 16th St. S., St. Petersburg
What to Expect from a Special Needs Shelter:
The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County and School Board staff these shelters with nurses and other medical personnel. Oxygen is available, but air conditioning may not be available if power is interrupted.
Before going to a shelter, arrange to bring at least a two-week supply of any medications you need along with any needed portable equipment. If you have special diet requirements, be sure to pack your own special nonperishable snacks. For your own comfort, bring items such as bedding, sheets, pillows and blankets. Cots are available only on a limited basis and are not guaranteed.
Special needs shelters do not have hospital beds and cannot assist those with acute medical problems.
Good Advice for all Residents with Special Needs:
Whether you go to a special needs shelter or not, here’s some good advice to keep in mind when preparing for hurricane season:
- Start a personal support network of people you can count on during an emergency.
- Create an emergency health information card that is customized to you.
- Complete an emergency contact list with names and phone numbers of family members, friends, doctors, insurance information and hospital preferences.
- Conduct an ability self-assessment. Know what you can and cannot do. Talk with your health care provider about a realistic plan.
- Maintain a current list of medications and at least a two-week supply.
- Keep important equipment and assistive devices in a consistent, convenient and secured place.
On Track with Transportation:
For those who need to evacuate, but don’t have their own transportation, a hurricane can cause anxiety. Pinellas County officials want to make sure that everyone can get to safe shelter.
If you sign up for the special needs registry, you will be asked about your transportation plans. If you need a ride to a shelter, your local fire department will be in contact with you to make arrangements when the time comes to evacuate.
If you don’t require special needs transport, PSTA buses will run nearly all their routes until it’s no longer safe to travel. During an evacuation, buses will also run from transfer stations to local shelters. All rides are free during an evacuation. Be prepared in advance by locating your nearest bus stop. Some people may not qualify for special needs transport, cannot ride the bus and have no other means of transportation to evacuate. If you are in that situation, contact your local fire department or the Department of Emergency Management, in advance, for special assistance. Take advantage of the help that is there for you. Don’t stay in a dangerous situation just because you don’t have your own ride. (Call the PSTA InfoLine (727) 540-1900. For current route information during a storm go to www.psta.net/weatheralert.php.)
Helping the Elderly:
Older adults, especially those living alone, have unique concerns that should be addressed before a storm nears Pinellas County. Increased stress and anxiety can be a factor leading to more incidents of illness, particularly for those seniors with heart disease or respiratory troubles.
If you are an older adult who doesn’t require special needs assistance, you don’t have to ride out the storm alone. Many senior communities are in non-evacuation zones, meet to discuss preparations such as who might serve as a host home and make a list to divide up supplies to gather before a storm.
Sign up for the free Alert Pinellas, a emergency notification service, to get up-to-date storm information. This news can be passed along through a phone tree to friends and neighbors. If a hurricane warning should be issued, the phone tree would then advise all members to meet at the host home and remind them to bring emergency supplies.
It bears repeating that, regardless of age, if you live in a mobile or manufactured home, you must leave when the evacuation order is given. A clubhouse is likely not a safe place to weather a storm. Get together with others in your neighborhood to find host homes.
If you are an older adult living in a nursing home, assisted living facility or boarding home, contact the administrator to learn about emergency preparations. Let your friends and family members know about the facility’s plans and give them important contact information before a hurricane threatens the area.
If you are homebound, discuss your plan with your caregiver.
Some additional items to be considered:
- A patch kit and extra inner tubes
- Gloves in case of broken glass or debris
- An extra battery and/or a converter for charging
- Talking or Braille clock
- An extra white cane, magnifier and glasses
- Mark your disaster supplies with fluorescent tape
Hearing or speech impairments:
- Extra batteries for hearing aids
- Pencil and paper for communicating emergency information
- Power converter for your laptop
- Preprinted key phrases you would use in an emergency
- Two-week supply of dressing materials, nasal cannulas or suction catheters
- Two-week supply of prescriptions
- Cooler for refrigerated medications
- Special dietary food
- Florida law requires that utility companies offer a “priority reconnection service” for people with disabilities who use power-dependent equipment. Contact your utility company to get placed on the list.
- Wheelchair users need to have more than one exit from their residence that is wheelchair accessible. Practice how to escape from your home.
- Wear medical alert tags. Also write down special instructions for emergency personnel in a brief and direct format, such as, “I am deaf, please write down your instructions” or “Please take my medication from the refrigerator.”
- The National Weather Service has information on its website to help the hearing impaired utilize NOAA Weather Alert Radios for emergency weather notifications. Go to www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/info/shhh.html .
- Keep cash on hand in case you need to buy special supplies.
- Be an advocate for yourself! Practice how to quickly explain your condition and your adaptive equipment to someone who is helping you.
- Know how local authorities will warn you of a pending disaster.
- Build a support network of friends, family and neighbors. Let them know your needs in an emergency situation and how they can assist you with your plan.
- Connect with a local neighborhood group such as CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), neighborhood watch, neighborhood associations or a nearby place of worship.
- Make sure your local fire department knows your needs. Preregister if you need transportation or a spot in a special needs shelter.
- A NOAA Weather Alert Radio can wake you when severe weather is threatening.
- Be ready for local officials to come door-to-door to deliver emergency warnings and follow their instructions.
- If you are going to a public shelter, wear comfortable clothes and sturdy shoes. Have your “go bag” ready and let an out-of-town contact know where you are going.
- Take at least two-weeks worth of medication with you.
- Be sure to get your prescriptions refilled.
- Have a list of contact numbers and a copy of your personal medical information.
- If you stay home, never use candles when the electricity goes out. Stick to flashlights and lanterns.
- Help your friends and neighbors by sharing this information!
- For more special needs information visit Ready.gov
Frequently Asked Questions:
is this program?
The Pinellas County Special Needs/Evacuation Assistance Program is for individuals who have no other evacuation plan and need government sheltering and/or transportation assistance during an emergency. The program provides transportation to general shelters, special needs shelters or a healthcare facility. It also can provide special needs sheltering for those that meet the criteria and are unable to make any other arrangements for shelter during an emergency.
- How do I register?
You can fill out the form online and it will go to Emergency Management. The form will then be sent to the appropriate fire department. They will contact you for more information and to confirm that you are entered into the program. Forms are also available from your home healthcare provider or by calling your local fire department, Emergency Management (464-3800) or the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County (820-4155). For transportation, your local fire department will contact you prior to any evacuations. You do not need to be registered to go to a special needs shelter if you have your own transportation, but we strongly encourage it. You must be registered if you need transportation to a shelter. Do not wait until there is a threat of an evacuation, you may be too late. Register now!
- How do I know
if I am eligible?
For transportation, if you have no other way to get to a shelter you can register for transportation assistance. For special needs shelters, if you have no other options for sheltering and you require limited medical assistance such as oxygen, assistance with routine care and medications, or you are dependent on electricity you may qualify for the special needs shelters. Shelters do not have hospital beds, and cannot assist those with acute medical problems. When you fill out a registration form, the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County will determine if you are eligible for a special needs shelter and advise you directly or through your local fire department.
- Can this program
help me at other times?
This program is activated only when we have a declared county emergency, an evacuation is ordered and shelters are opened. However, if you are registered as a special needs person, the local fire department will have that information in the event of a localized situation that may require your notification or evacuation.
- What is available
at the Special Needs Shelters?
The Department of Health and the Pinellas County School Board staff these shelters with nurses and other medical personnel. Oxygen is available at the special needs shelters. You will be provided normal meals only; you will need to bring any special dietary foods you may require. Hospital beds are not available at the shelters; you must bring comfort items such as bedding, pillows, sheets, and blankets. Air conditioning will be available as long as power is available. While the special needs shelters may have generators for essential electrical devices, none will have air conditioning if power is lost. You must bring any medications you require (at least a seven day supply), as well as special equipment you may need such as your oxygen concentrator, cannulas, tubing, etc.
- What about
Service animals may go with you, but other pets need to be cared for by making prior arrangements. If you are registered and eligible to go to a special needs shelter, call Pinellas County Animal Services at (727) 582-2600 to register your pet. Animal Services will make arrangements for your pet to be taken to a host home. If you are going to a pet-friendly shelter you are responsible for your own transportation.
- What if I am
in a non-evacuation zone?
If you are in a non-evacuation zone and you are not in a manufactured or mobile home, you should stay home unless told otherwise. Stock up on supplies and take steps to make your home safe. Your home will be the most comfortable place during a hurricane. If you are electrically dependent, talk to your home healthcare provider or your physician about what you should do in the event of loss of power to your home. If you are on liquid oxygen you will not need electricity. If you are on gaseous oxygen, talk to your supplier about what to do during an emergency.
- What if I register
and do not qualify for a special needs
If you do not qualify for a special needs shelter you will be advised by the Dept. of Health or your local fire department. Depending on your situation, you will be directed to go to a general population shelter or we will work with you to find an appropriate medical facility where you can shelter during an emergency.
Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center
Department of Emergency Management
During an emergency activation call the
Citizen Information Center at (727) 464-4333.