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Emergency Preparedness

A disaster can strike at any time - sometimes without warning! It is important for every Floridian, especially citizens with disabilities and other special needs, to plan ahead for an emergency situation and know what to do in the event of an emergency.

The best time to prepare for an emergency is well ahead of time. When you prepare from a position of safety and calm, you and your caregivers can better cope with an emergency or disaster situation when it happens. An emergency or disaster may present unique challenges for people with disabilities and special needs. If you or someone you care for has a disability or special need, you may have to take additional steps to prepare yourself and your family.

For more, download our Are You Prepared document in English and Spanish, and explore the resources below.

Have You Made A Plan

You should be aware that there is a State Division of Emergency Management and it encourages everyone to have a plan.  The Division of Emergency Management is responsible for maintaining a statewide program of emergency management. 

Individuals with disabilities have the option to sign up for the Special Needs Registry.  All counties are required to establish a Special Needs Registry to help identify individuals with disabilities who may need assistance during an emergency.  Go to the Florida Disaster website for important information within your county and instructions on how to register.

Here is a complete list of items you need to bring to the Special Needs Shelter.

It is important to have your prescribed medicines in your Disaster Survival Kit.  The “Emergency Prescription Refill” law allows you to refill your prescribed medicines during a disaster if your county: 

  • Is currently under a hurricane warning issued by the National Weather Service

  • Is declared to be under a ”State of Emergency” by an executive order issued by the governor, or

  • Has opened its “Emergency Operations Center” and its “Emergency Management Plan”

During a storm, you should listen to the radio or news on television to know if any of the above situations are going to occur.  Please talk with your doctor and pharmacist now about how this new law can help you.  Make sure you are ready this hurricane season by having:

  • a list of all of your medicines

  • the name of each drug you take

  • the name of the doctor who wrote the prescription 

  • the amount of medicine to take, and

  • the name and location of your pharmacy.

Staying Informed

It is important to stay informed with up-to-date information and instructions from emergency management sources.  Local radio and TV are good sources of information including which shelters are open, evacuation directions, and closings of schools and local businesses.

  • To find the latest weather forecasts around the USA, track storms through NOAA weather satellites, get the latest weather maps, and learn how to protect yourself and your community from severe weather go to the NOAAWatch website.

  • Visit the NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) page for general information on how an NWR can be an alerting tool for individuals who are hard of hearing or deaf.

Evacuate or Stay?

One of the most important decisions made during an emergency situation is whether to evacuate or stay in your home or at your current location. Determining factors such as your unique circumstances and the nature of the emergency should be carefully evaluated before either option is decided upon. As a person with disabilities/special needs or a caretaker of individuals with special needs, your disaster plan should consider and have options for both situations (evacuating or staying).  

It is also important to use all the information you can from local officials or the news to determine if there is immediate danger. Use your best judgment as no one knows your needs as well as you do.  However, certain emergency and disaster situations require immediate evacuation. If you are specifically ordered to evacuate, it is vital that you do so immediately. If your daily activities require additional travel time or transportation assistance, your emergency plan should include prior travel arrangements.

For additional information on making your decision go to this Florida Disaster webpage.

Where Will You Go?

The State of Florida and the American Red Cross have collaborated to provide a public view of current shelters listed in the Red Cross National Shelter System.  This information is updated as regularly as possible.

Florida Pets website provides a county-by-county list of pet-friendly motels and hotels.  This site also gives updates about pet-friendly shelters.  Remember, your service animal is not a pet and is allowed in all shelters.

Additional Resources

  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has important information regarding emergency management preparedness for individuals with disabilities.
  • The American Red Cross has information on its website for individuals with disabilities regarding natural disasters.
  • There is also information on how to contact Florida Chapters of the American Red Cross.
  • The Florida Department of Children and Families website has information on emergency preparedness.  Select the search function and type “emergency preparedness”.
  • The Florida Department of Health website also has information on emergency preparedness. Select the search function and type “emergency preparedness”. 
  • The Agency for Health Care Administration website has information on emergency preparedness.  Select the search function and type “emergency preparedness.”
  • The Florida State Department of Elder Affairs website also has disaster preparedness information, such as the State of Florida Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan 2002
  • Florida Courts’ emergency preparedness information.
  • Comprehensive emergency management planning criteria for Hospice
  • You may also choose to go to MyFlorida.com for information on Florida emergency preparedness management in general. In the search function of this website, type “emergency preparedness”.