Hurricane season officially kicks off June 1, which means it's time to review emergency plans. And for South Florida residents with medical needs, that can involve extra work to ensure a spot on county lists for emergency evacuation assistance.
Florida counties maintain special needs registries for emergency situations. During hurricanes, people who have pre-registered on these lists are eligible for priority evacuation help and medical shelters—depending on their level of need.
In 2017, Hurricane Irma exposed vulnerabilities in the evacuation and shelter procedures for people with special needs. WLRN found that while 2,200 people were pre-registered for emergency support, an additional 2,225 called for assistance at the last minute and the county was unable to help many of them.
If you or a loved one has special medical needs, here are the county resources to pre-register for evacuation and shelter assistance:
Palm Beach County
Residents with certain medical needs—dependence on electric medical devices, dependence on external oxygen, chronic but stable illnesses that require a caregiver, dementia—can register online for space in a medical shelter or print out an application and mail it back in. You can also call (561) 712-6400 for assistance.
Residents with other disabilities can register for transportation to general shelters by calling (561) 649-9839 to apply for the Special Transportation Assistance Program through Palm Tran.
Residents with medical needs can apply for evacuation transportation and space in a special needs shelter by calling (954) 831-3902 (or TTY 954-831-3940). Broward County also offers a pintable application form online, along with more information about qualifying for special needs emergency services.
Medical shelter and transportation assistance applications can be submitted through an online registration form or by calling (305) 513-7700.
Note: Residents with advanced medical needs are required to get part of the application signed by their primary care physician or a home health care nurse.
Monroe County Emergency Management has an online portal to sign up for its special needs registry. You can also call (305) 292-4591, Monday-Friday, 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.