Evacuation shelters … a liferaft in the stormLast week we discussed what you should expect concerning sheltering at the general population/pet friendly shelter, usually at the Turner Agri-Civic Center. Now let us address shelters for people with special needs. The DeSoto County Special Needs Shelter will be open for those with medical needs that are electrically dependent, such as those on oxygen concentrators, dialysis, ventilators, nebulizers or other conditions of an advanced nature that require assistance or who are unable to care for themselves. It provides shelter from a tropical storm or hurricane for those who live in a home and/or area that is not safe from storm surge or wind, and have no other safe place to go. It also provides transportation to a shelter for those residents who do not have a way to get there.

The Special Needs shelter is available to all DeSoto County residents at no cost and is staffed by medical professionals from the DeSoto County Health Department and other agencies to assist our citizens. You must register annually to receive these services by completing the Special Needs Registry application, found at http://member.everbridge.net/index/892807736730093#/login. Remember, you must register every year. Your application is good for one calendar year only, so choose a date you will remember like your birthday or June 1, the first day of the hurricane season. Just do not wait until a storm is bearing down on us to register; we are very busy in that situation.

Registering with the Special Needs Registry does not guarantee you will be assigned a space in the Special Needs Shelter. Once submitted, your application will be reviewed by the Department of Health, and you will be assigned to a shelter where your needs can be managed. If you are qualified, you will receive a confirmation letter and instructions to advise that your name is on the registry, and what to expect if you must shelter.

You will need a companion/caregiver to accompany you during the time you shelter, as we have a limited number of staff working. You should bring things you need to survive, such as prescriptions, personal hygiene items, sleeping bag, cot, pillow, change of clothes, glasses, special dietary needs, books/magazines/cards or other things to help pass the time while sheltering. Food and water will be provided, but we suggest you bring some food and drinks with you, especially if you are on a special diet. Only service animals are allowed in the Special Needs shelter.

Shelter spaces in hospitals are assigned to people whose health issues are unmanageable in the Special Needs shelter. If space in the local hospital is not available, you might be transported to facilities in other counties. Sheltering may be in hallways, meeting rooms, or other large congregate spaces. You must still have a companion/caregiver shelter with you the entire time. A letter from your physician must accompany the application if hospitalization is needed. A bed will be provided, and oxygen, if required. You must bring your medical equipment, medicines, personal items, money, etc. Your caregiver will need to bring the same items, plus something to sleep on.

With all that being said, remember what I wrote last week; if possible, arrange to evacuate with family, friends, or at a motel out of harm’s way for your “Plan A.” A shelter should always be your “Plan B.” If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

For questions or more information about all the Emergency Management programs available in DeSoto County, please call 863-993-4831 or email eoc@desotobocc.com. Get emergency alerts by email, text or directly to your phones by signing up for “DeSoto Alerts,” a free service provided by DeSoto County Emergency Management, on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DesotoEM/. Click on the blue SIGN UP button to register and “Like” our page while you are there.

Remember, the 2019 hurricane season is only seven weeks away. Do not wait until there is a storm coming to start your preparations because disasters of all types can occur at any time. Here is this week’s shopping list for your kit. Shopping lists are just a guide. Please adjust to your family’s needs. Always check expiration dates. Make the item last as long as possible (at least through Nov. 30) and be sure to check in next week for our next shopping list.

Brian Newhouse is emergency management coordinator for DeSoto County Emergency Management

Things to do:

Locate your water meter and electrical shut off

Items to purchase (per person):

Hydrogen peroxide

Rubbing alcohol

Petroleum jelly

Thermometer

Tweezers

Personal hygiene products

Liquid hand soap

Liquid dish soap

Aluminum foil

1 package disposable cups

2 rolls paper towels

2 rolls toilet paper

This list was adapted from a series by Candi Kelly, Manatee County Emergency Management.

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