Storm Season

People with Disabilities Face Challenges in Emergencies

It's wise to register with health officials, even as a back-up plan

Preparing for emergencies, coping with them, and recovering afterward are difficult for anyone.

They can be especially daunting when a person has a physical or mental disability. For these people and their caregivers, the prospect of an emergency that involves moving to a different place, staying there indefinitely, and returning to an uncertain future can be overwhelming.

Register for Special Needs Shelter  

State emergency managers place people with disabilities into 10 categories, such as: seniors, those with mental illness, people with autism, and childbearing women and newborns, among others. All may need assistance in hurricanes and other emergencies. Florida's Division of Emergency Management offers tips for helping them. Patience, empathy, and the ability to assess a situation effectively are universally valued.

It's important to let authorities know if a person who is disabled or vulnerable might require help in an emergency. Government and nonprofit agencies that provide assistance need to plan, too. How many workers and volunteers are needed? How much food, oxygen, toilet paper, and other supplies are required?

Hillsborough County residents with special medical needs or no means of transportation are encouraged to submit an online registration form to the Hillsborough County Health Department. The form is available in English and Spanish, and can be faxed or mailed to health officials. You must complete the application and submit to the to see if you qualify for a special needs shelter.

It's wise to register, even as a back-up plan.

Health Department officials assess the registrations, and identify people who will need attention beyond the assistance they might receive at a Red Cross Shelter. The additional help is available for people such as:

  • Someone with a stable medical condition that requires periodic observation, assessment, or maintenance.
  • A person who depends on electricity for medical equipment, such as an oxygen machine or feeding tube.
  • An evacuee who needs dialysis.
  • Someone who, in a health expert's opinion, might not fare well in a general population shelter.