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Special Medical Needs Shelter Information

A special medical needs shelter is a designated structure that has backup power and is capable of providing safe refuge for evacuees who have health conditions that require basic assistance or supervision from a medical professional during a disaster.  These shelters are managed by the Florida Department of Health in Duval County.

Special medical needs shelters are refuges of last resort and should only be considered if you need to evacuate and have no other options.  If you can safely shelter in place, stay with friends or family, or stay in a hotel, it is recommended that you do so. 

Things to Consider:

  • You must PRE-REGISTER for Special Medical Needs disaster assistance every year with the City of Jacksonville Emergency Preparedness Division
  • A caregiver must accompany any individual requiring more than basic assistance
  • Shelters may be crowded, uncomfortable, and offer minimal privacy
  • Amenities are limited to basic nursing assistance, first-aid care, bathroom facilities, food and water
  • Individuals with special dietary needs should bring their own food
  • An evacuation kit should be prepared to make your stay more comfortable
  • Not all shelters accept pets.  Pets are only allowed in specific pet-friendly shelters.  Service animals are permitted at all shelters
  • Smoking and/or alcohol consumption is NOT permitted at any shelter
  • Childcare is not provided at any shelter; you are required to supervise your children
  • Bathe and eat before securing your home and relocating to a shelter
  • Shelter locations change from year to year, do not go to a shelter until shelter locations and opening times have been announced

When evacuating to a special medical needs shelter, bring the following items:

  • Photo identification
  • All required medications
  • Medical support equipment (O2 concentrator/bottle, CPAP, nebulizer, etc.)
  • Wheelchair/walker/cane
  • Medical supplies (dressings, diapers, ostomy bags, etc.)
  • Food, snacks, and water (if any special dietary needs, ensure to bring nutrition with you, only regular meals will be provided)
  • Bedding supplies (pillow, blankets, sheets, air mattress, etc.)
  • Clothing/Sweater/jacket (shelters tend to be cold)
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Important documents (insurance, doctor’s orders, special care instructions, etc.)
  • Comfort items (book, computer, games, cards, etc.)
  • Cash (banking/ATM/credit card services may not be available for several days post-disaster)
  • Pet food, current vaccination records, collar, leash, pet carrier

Pets are only allowed in specific shelters. However, transportation for your pet is not provided.
*Please note that service animals are accepted at all shelters.

How “Service Animal” Is Defined

A service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.  Tasks performed can include, among other things, pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, alerting a person to a sound, reminding a person to take medication, or pressing an elevator button.  Under Title II and III of the ADA, service animals are limited to dogs. However, entities must make reasonable modifications in policies to allow individuals with disabilities to use miniature horses if they have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for individuals with disabilities.

Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the ADA. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals either. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability. It does not matter if a person has a note from a doctor that states that the person has a disability and needs to have the animal for emotional support. A doctor’s letter does not turn an animal into a service animal.