Staff report

The biggest potential issue this hurricane season will be opening shelters and adhering to social distancing.

There are only so many buildings out of flood zones and built to sustain hurricane-force winds in our area. But as everyone continues to practice social distancing according to CDC guidelines, fewer people will be able to fit into those shelters this year.

“During Irma we crammed in as many as we could,” said Charlotte County Emergency Management Director Patrick Fuller. “Now, we would have to social distance in the shelters.”

Area EOC directors said they’re stressing now more than ever to Southwest Florida residents that shelters are a last resort.

“If they’re not in an evacuation area, they’re better off just sheltering at home,” said Sarasota County Emergency Management Director Ed McCrane. “If they can’t do that, they should shelter with friends or family, but even in that situation, they should practice social distancing.”

McCrane said Sarasota County is preparing for more space between people, more frequent sanitizing, and changes to things like cafeteria lines at evacuation shelters, to minimize any potential spread of the virus.

Fuller said in Charlotte County, staff are also looking at possible screening measures for anyone entering a shelter, like checking temperatures and symptoms to ensure no one entering has the virus. Emergency Management staff are working with the Department of Health on additional details.

“Obviously, you don’t leave anybody out to weather the storm outside; accommodations would be made,” Fuller said.

Always check with the news media as well as county emergency management online pages to determine which evacuation centers are open during an emergency. Depending on the county, they may be open at different times.

CHARLOTTE COUNTY

• Kingsway Elementary School, 23300 Quasar Blvd., Port Charlotte.

• Liberty Elementary school, 370 Atwater St., Port Charlotte.

• Neil Armstrong Elementary School, 22100 Breezeswept Ave., Port Charlotte.

• Harold Avenue Regional Park Recreation Center, 23400 Harold Ave., Port Charlotte

People with special needs can register at 26571 Airport Road, Punta Gorda or email Emergency.Management@CharlotteCountyFL.gov.

The public can follow Charlotte County Emergency Management’s important emergency information at www.charlottecountyfl.gov, www.facebook.com/oemcharlottecounty and www.twitter.com/ccoem.

NORTH PORT

• Atwater Elementary School,4701 Huntsville Ave., North Port

• Heron Creek Middle School,6501 W. Price Blvd., North Port

• North Port High School, 6400 W. Price Blvd., North Port

• Woodland Middle School, 2700 Panacea Blvd., North Port

Contact Sarasota County Emergency Management at www.scgov.net or by calling the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000.

SARASOTA

All evacuation centers allow pets (dogs and cats, other arrangements must be made for other animals.)

• Booker High School 3201 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota

• Brookside Middle School 3636 S. Shade Ave., Sarasota

• Fruitville Elementary School, 601 Honore Ave., Sarasota

• Gulf Gate Elementary School 6500 S. Lockwood Ridge Road, Sarasota

• Phillippi Shores Elementary 4747 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota

• Riverview High School 1 Ram Way, Sarasota

• Southside Elementary School 1901 Webber St., Sarasota

There are no county-authorized emergency shelters within the Venice city limits.

Sarasota County Emergency Management can be reached via www.scgov.net or by calling the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000.

DESOTO COUNTY

• DeSoto County Public Evacuation Center: DeSoto County Turner Agri-Civic Center, 2250 N.E. Roan Street, in Arcadia. This is the second year a pet-friendly shelter also will be located at the center.

• Special Needs Shelter: Applicants must register to use this shelter. South Florida State College, 2251 NE Turner Ave., in Arcadia.

For more information: desotobocc.com

Special needs

Special needs shelters are available for people who need medical assistance that is not available at a public shelter. Only basic medical assistance and monitoring will be available.

Please note:

• Oxygen will be provided to those persons who require it.

• All persons must be accompanied by a caregiver and provide their own bedding, food, water, medications and transfer oxygen devices.

• No pets are allowed unless they are service animals.

• All service animals must have vaccination records and be caged. You must also provide their food, water, leash and litter box.

• Any person with conditions that cannot be cared for in the special needs shelter must be admitted to a hospital. Arrangements should be made via your personal physician before June 1.

• The Florida Division of Emergency Management, in coordination with each local emergency management agency in the state, developed a system that enables residents with special needs to register with their local emergency management agency to receive assistance during a disaster. Visit snr.floridadisaster.org.

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