Special medical needs shelters are refuges of last resort intended to house residents with special medical needs. Shelters may be crowded and uncomfortable. There is no guarantee of electricity and there may be no privacy. Amenities are limited to basic nursing assistance, first-aid care, bathroom facilities, food and water. An evacuation kit should be prepared to make the stay more comfortable.

Photo of a gym full of cots Photo of people sitting on cots in a hallway

When evacuating to a special needs shelter, bring the following items:

  1. All required medications and medical support equipment:
    1. Wheelchair / walker, oxygen, dressings, feeding equipment, ostomy, diapers, etc.
    2. Any specific medication or carte instructions
    3. Name, phone numbers of physician / home health agency / hospital where you receive care
  2. Special Dietary Needs: Only regular meals will be provided
  3. Sleeping Gear: Pillows, blankets, portable cot or aid mattress, folding chairs. Shelters tend to be cold so bring a blanket or a sweater to keep warm.
  4. Important Papers: i.e.: insurance papers, doctors' orders.
  5. Identification: With photo and current address.
  6. Cash: Check cashing / credit card services may not be available for several days after the storm. But: Don't bring to much! There will be no place to secure money or valuables at the center.
  7. Comfort Items: Personal hygiene items, snacks, small games, cards, diapers, etc.
  8. Extra clothing: An extra set of comfortable clothing and a few extra sets of underwear and socks.
  9. Something to eat / drink: Though there is a food supply at the Special Medical Needs Shelters, it may take several hours to prepare meals. Eat a meal or prepare a snack prior to leaving home, and bring a supply of bottled water.

Pets are only allowed in specific shelters. However, transportation for your pet is not provided.
*Please note that service animals are accepted at all shelters.

How “Service Animal” Is Defined

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of “assistance animal” under the Fair Housing Act or the broader definition of “service animal” under the Air Carrier Access Act.

Some State and local laws also define service animal more broadly than the ADA does. Information about such laws can be obtained from the State attorney general’s office.

(Source: U.S. Department of Justice)