Seminole County prepares special needs shelter for hurricane season

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — People and pets gave emergency managers and medical staff a run-through of what it takes to open and manage a special needs hurricane shelter in Seminole County.


On walkers, in wheelchairs, and some with oxygen in tow, volunteers made their way inside Altermese Bentley Elementary School today to help Seminole County leaders prepare for what’s already been an active hurricane season.

“There are more and more individuals who are living at home comfortably with enhanced medical care, medical services, medical equipment, that needs power,” Emergency Manager Alan Harris said.

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For the people and pets this type of shelter is set to serve, the loss of power can be a matter of life and death.

Unlike a typical hurricane shelter, this one requires more space and specialized staff from the Florida Department of Health.

“These are important, because it’s one thing to watch a training, watch a module, and it’s another thing to actually be in person, and actually have someone in front of you with an emergency need and needing to address that,” Dr. Ethan Johnson said.

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The shelter has a room for isolation if someone arrives sick, and a memory care unit for individuals dealing with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Across the state, some counties partner with local hospitals or nursing homes to provide the same service.

Leaders are urging those who may need to come to this kind of shelter during a storm, to register with the county now.

“Every county in the state of Florida has a special needs program, that allows us to understand who may come to the shelter, so that we can make proper plans, making sure that we have the right staff, oxygen tanks, power for medical services, things like that here at the shelters,” Harris said.

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