A Special Needs Shelter is a shelter of last resort for people who need more medical supervision than a general population shelter can provide due to special medical needs, but do not require hospitalization.
A person with Special Needs is someone who during an evacuation, either mandatory or voluntary, will require assistance that exceeds the basic level of care provided at the general population shelter, but will not require the level of skilled medical care provided at institutional facilities.
How can I register for the Special Needs Shelter?
You must pre-register with the Public Safety Department, (850) 471-6400, and you may find an application at the bottom of this page. Find out if you qualify as soon as possible. Once it has been determined the shelter will open, spaces will fill quickly. The Special Needs Shelter does not accept reservations.
Escambia County Emergency Management maintains a list of persons with special needs requiring shelter during a disaster. A copy of the registration form can be obtained from your local physician or home health agency. Once completed, return the registration by mail to:
Escambia County Public Safety, Special Needs Registry
6575 North “W” St., Pensacola, FL 32505
All registration forms will be forwarded to the Escambia County Health Department where the applications will be screened for eligibility. Registrants will be notified by mail regarding admittance into the special needs shelter. If additional information is required for individual determinations, an Escambia County Health Department nurse will contact you directly. Your information must be updated each year for eligibility.
Licensed health care facilities, such as nursing homes and adult living facilities, are required to have their own safety plans in place for the wellbeing of its clients and staff. Clients of such facilities are not permitted at the Special Needs Shelter.
Those cared for by home healthcare companies are advised to identify what the company disaster plans are and how services will continue in the event of an emergency.
Dialysis is not provided at the Special Needs Shelter. Please coordinate with your healthcare provider regarding the options available to meet your needs.
The Special Needs Shelter does not routinely admit pediatric (children) special needs clients. The facility and the staff are not equipped nor have the specialty training to manage pediatric special needs clients.
The Special Needs Shelter will admit mental health clients as necessary. Each mental health client will be required to have a caregiver 24 hours a day for as long as the client remains in the shelter or for the duration the shelter operations remain open.
Only service animals are permitted in the Special Needs Shelter.
Do not bring weapons of any sort (knives, guns, etc). Alcohol is not permitted at the shelter. Weapons and alcohol will be confiscated by shelter staff and either turned over to law enforcement or disposed of.
Things to Take to a Public Shelter
If you go to a public shelter, you will need to take the following items:
- A change of clothing, rain gear and sturdy shoes
- Toiletries and personal items
- Blankets or sleeping bags and pillows
- Identification and any important papers
- Games, toys or books for children
- Special items for infants or elderly family members
- Any special dietary needs and non-perishable foods for snacks
- Battery operated radio, flashlights and plenty of spare batteries
- Prescription medications or any over-the-counter medications you normally take
Criteria for Special Needs Shelter client may include, but is not limited to:
- A person with a stable medical condition requiring periodic observation, assessment, and maintenance (i.e. glucose readings, vital signs, urinary catheter) by a nurse
- A person requiring periodic wound care assistance (i.e. dressing changes)
- A person with limitations that require nursing assistance with activities of daily living
- A person requiring and needing nursing assistance with oral, subcutaneous or topical medication
- A person requiring minimal assistance with ambulation, position change and transfer (i.e. able to move more than 100 feet with or without an assistive device)
- A person requiring oxygen that can be manually supplied
- A person medically dependent on uninterrupted electricity for therapies, including but not limited to, oxygen, nebulizer and feeding tubes. Ventilator dependent persons and those with multiple special needs requiring a higher level of care should seek assistance from a skilled medical facility
- A person with mental or cognitive limitations requiring assistance who is accompanied by an appropriate full time caregiver for the duration of their stay in the shelter
- A person whose weight does not exceed the safety weight restrictions of provided cots (300 lbs)
- A person who can be safely transferred and does not require special lifting or transferring equipment.
- A person requiring a stretcher to be transported may need to be referred to a higher skilled medical facility
Persons with the following medical conditions (not an all-inclusive listing) are potentially not suitable or recommended for the Special Needs Shelter. It is recommended that persons with medical conditions such as those listed should consult with their physician or a medical facility professional to identify the best sheltering options for their medical condition.
- Third trimester pregnancy
- Renal dialysis
- Patients requiring isolation
- Ventilator patients
- IV Therapy
- Bedridden and total care patient
- Acute shortness of breath
- Acute chest pain
Persons with the following conditions or impairments (if not combined with other qualifying conditions) do not require sheltering in a Special Needs Shelter and are suitable for a general shelter:
- First and Second trimester pregnancy
- Vision Impaired
- Hearing Impaired
- Wheelchair Bound
Should you have specific medical questions as they pertain to the shelter to best accommodate your needs, please call the Escambia County Health Department, (850) 595-6500.
What are the Special Needs Shelter accommodations?
Severity of emergencies varies. Depending on each situation, the following may be available to those staying in the shelter and their caregivers:
- Shower facilities
- Meals up to three times per day (particular dietary needs are not available)
- Electrical outlets are available for medical equipment only
- Smoking is not permitted inside the shelter. A designated smoking area will be identified outdoors, weather permitting
- Individuals who do not follow the shelter rules will be removed
- Escambia County Health Department, Escambia County EMS, or the Escambia School District will not be responsible for any lost personal equipment or belongings. Personal belongings or equipment brought to the shelter should be marked with your name
- Caregivers will receive a cot only after all special needs individuals receive one
For further Escambia County shelter information, please visit the Shelters section on BeReadyEscambia.com here.