Special Needs
Before Event During Event After Event Resources

Before the Event

As hurricane season approaches, families should determine whether anyone in their home has special needs in an emergency because of a medical condition, or because they are elderly or disabled. Families should make arrangements in advance to accommodate those needs.

Top Tips

Many individuals may be able to safely shelter at home. If you are at risk due to a disability, frailty or health issue, regardless of age and elect to stay at home you should register with the Vulnerable Population Registry.

Municipalities may use the Registry to help evaluate resident needs and to assist in planning their response in an emergency. The Vulnerable Population Registry does not guarantee that you will be provided services or placed on a priority list for responders, it will help responders be better prepared to meet resident needs in a recovery.

Broward County operates a Special Needs Shelter program with five Special Needs Shelters, including one for children with special medical needs, and one with 24-hour electrical support for oxygen use.

  • Pre-registration for the Special Needs Shelter is open throughout the year, and while not required, is strongly encouraged to ensure that the shelter will be adequately prepared to meet your needs.
  • If you are elderly, frail, disabled or have a special medical need and are concerned about your sheltering plan, or if you want the latest information on shelter modifications for individuals with disabilities or special needs, contact Broward County Human Services Department at 954-357-6385 (TTY 954-357-5608).
  • Broward County Transit’s Paratransit Services coordinates transportation for residents with disabilities. Call 954-357-6385 or (TTY 954-357-5608).

Special Needs Shelters 

  • If you have a medical condition that requires a greater level of care than that provided at a General Population Shelter, but you do not require hospitalization, a Special Needs Shelter may be appropriate for you. These shelters offer basic medical assistance and monitoring. They are staffed by qualified medical personnel and have back-up electricity for limited lighting and essential medical equipment. Family members and caregivers are encouraged to accompany residents with special medical needs.
  • All residents seeking shelter in a Special Needs facility will be reviewed on an individual basis to determine the best placement for their needs.

Special Needs Shelters are appropriate for:

    • individuals with minor health/medical conditions that require professional observation, assessment, and maintenance
    • individuals that require assistance with personal care and/or assistance with medications but do not require hospitalization
    • individuals who need medications and/or vital sign readings and are unable to do so without professional assistance. 

Special Needs Shelters are not appropriate for:

    • Pregnant women within six weeks of estimated delivery date
    • Dialysis patients - if dialysis is your only medical condition, you can be accommodated and may be more comfortable at a General Population Shelter
    • Patients requiring a ventilator
    • Patients requiring isolation
    • Persons suffering from acute infection or infestation
    • Persons having an immediate medical or emergency condition
    • Bedridden or total care patients

What to Bring to a Special Needs Shelter

Family members and/or a caregiver may accompany you to the Special Needs Shelter. You must bring with you:

  • medical support equipment, such as wheelchair, walker, nebulizer, etc. (these items should be labeled with owner information)
  • two-week supply of the medical supplies you will need (dressings, prescription and non-prescription medications, syringes, sterile swabs, adult diapers, etc.)
  • any special foods you require (only regular meals will be provided)
  • service animal supplies, including bedding, at least a three-day supply of food, water, plastic bags, collar with ID tag and vaccination records (pets cannot be accommodated at the Special Needs Shelter) A service animal is defined as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.
  • driver's license or other identification

Remember that while a shelter is intended to help keep you safe during an emergency, it does not provide the comforts and conveniences of your home or a hotel. Bring along supplies for yourself and your caregiver that will make your stay as comfortable as possible, such as:

  • personal hygiene items (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, washcloth)
  • additional bedding such as pillows, blankets, air mattress (there are no beds, but cots are provided for registered clients, not family members or caregivers)
  • books or games
  • non-perishable snacks
  • extra change of clothing
  • personal items such as eyeglasses, hearing aids, etc.
  • battery-operated radio
  • flashlight
  • extra set of batteries for radio, flashlight, hearing aids or communication devices
  • electrical back-up for medical equipment or motorized wheelchair or scooter and patch kit for tires
  • important documents such as insurance papers, birth or marriage certificates, social security cards, passports, etc.
  • a minimal amount of cash or travelers checks (there is nowhere to secure valuables at the shelter)

Updated June 2013