Here in DeSoto County disasters that require sheltering are rare (knock on wood!). But when a storm is bearing down upon us, the county does provide its citizens a hardened facility in which to seek refuge. There are two types of shelters in DeSoto County; the general population/pet-friendly shelter is for almost everyone, and the special needs shelter is for residents that are medically dependent and require a caregiver’s assistance on a regular basis.

The FIRST thing to remember about sheltering is that it should always be your LAST resort. It is necessary to prepare an evacuation plan before hurricane season arrives, and you should have several options from which to choose. If your first option does not work and you have no other safe place to go, you should go to a shelter. In the case of a hurricane, this is especially true if you live in a surge zone or in a manufactured home.

The second thing, as DeSoto EM Director Tom Moran says, is that “a shelter is a life raft, not a cruise ship.” A shelter is a safe place to be during an emergency, but it offers only the basics such as shelter from the weather, water and food and sanitary services. It will be noisy, crowded and somewhat uncomfortable—each person will be assigned approximately 20 square feet to sleep and keep their things. In the event we are faced with a catastrophic storm, we will be focused on life safety and may be forced to bring all those seeking refuge into the shelter, thereby reducing individual space allowance.

We use the DeSoto County Turner Agri-Civic Center as the general population shelter. It is at 2250 N.E. Roan St. This same location is also the pet-friendly shelter for the county. If you are required to seek shelter there, you will be there with hundreds of others, with pets and possibly first-responders. American Red Cross volunteers/DeSoto County employees manage this shelter. You must bring your own personal hygiene items, sleeping bags/cots, blankets, towels and comfort items. Food will be provided, but you should bring some food items with you for between meals, or in case you do not like what is being served. If you have diet restrictions or require specialty foods, you must bring those.

Pets are subjected to the same hazards as people. Evacuating to a friend’s home or pet-friendly hotel outside of the evacuation zone would be a good plan. If that isn’t available, bring your cat or dog to the shelter—you cannot drop your pet at the shelter and leave. Owners are responsible for feeding, exercising and cleaning up after their pets. Your pet will need a disaster kit, too. Include water, non-perishable food, medications and clean-up supplies. You will need a crate or carrier, collar and leash, and up-to-date vaccination records for your pet. A recent photo of your pet will be helpful if you happen to get separated.

Next week we will discuss the second type of shelter we provide in DeSoto County. The Special Needs Shelter, which will be open for those with medical needs that require electricity, has a registration and screening process to qualify for a bed space.

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: 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 eight 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 lists for your kit. 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 for next week’s shopping list.

Brian Newhouse is EM Coordinator for DeSoto County Emergency Management

Things to doCheck batteries in the smoke detectors.

Obtain cash and/or traveler’s checks.

Items to purchase

(per person)

1 gallon water

1 can meat

1 canned fruit

1 can vegetables

Instant coffee, tea or powdered drink

1 box heavy-duty garbage bags

Plastic wrap

Aspirin, acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen

1 can ready-to-eat soup and/or pastas

1 box dry cereal

1 box crackers

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

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