To shelter, or not to shelter?
For some, it’s not an option. With a mandatory evacuation and limited means of transportation and/or housing, an emergency shelter may be the only place to turn.
“We’re always saying shelters shouldn’t be considered a first choice,” Kelly Wilson, St. Johns County emergency coordinator told The Record on Thursday. “We tell people to stay with friends or family living outside the evacuation zone. You’re going to be in a room with hundreds of people. It’s a last resort, not a Love Boat.”
With that being said, some preparation can make a stay at a local shelter a little easier. See below for some tips offered by the St. Johns County Department of Emergency Management:
As of press time on Friday, St. Johns County announced plans to open five shelters at 6 a.m. Saturday. The County is prepared to open additional shelters as needed. The following shelters will be open to the public: Pacetti Bay Middle School, 245 Meadowlark Lane (special needs); Timberlin Creek Elementary School, 555 Pine Tree Lane (pet-friendly); Pedro Menendez High School, 600 State Road 206 West (general population); Bartram Trail High School, 7399 Longleaf Pine Parkway (general population); and South Woods Elementary School, 4750 State Road 206 (pet-friendly).
Before you go
• Eat before you leave. Meals may not be available at the shelters for the first 24 hours.
• Bring the items listed on the “Shelter supply checklist.”
• Turn off gas appliances at their individual shut-off valves inside your home.
• Take important documents and insurance papers with you.
• Bring identification. You may need to show proof of residence to reenter an evacuation area once the all clear is given.
Shelter supply checklist
• Three-day supply of water (per person)
• Three-day supply of non-perishable ready to eat food (per person)
• Manual can opener
• Three-day supply of medications, Diapers, Depends, etc.
• If you are a diabetic on insulin, bring a small cooler for your insulin.
• Personal grooming/hygiene items, feminine supplies
• Extra clothing
• Books, magazines, cards, games, etc.
• Egg crate or air mattress/sleeping bag (cots are only available at special needs shelters, and then on a limited basis)
• Lawn chair/chaise lounge
• Pillows, blankets, sheets
• Flashlight and extra batteries
• Personal identification/important papers
• Wheelchair/walker/cane, if needed
Pet shelter requirements
• Airline-approved pet carriers
• Cage liners
• Proper ID collar and rabies tag
• Food supplies, at least three days
• Water and food bowls
• Pet medications, if necessary
• Disposable litter trays (aluminum pans work well)
• Litter or paper towels
• Disposable garbage bags for clean-up
• Comfort items for your pet (such as blankets and toys)
Special needs sheltering:
To be admitted to the special needs shelter, residents must meet specific medical criteria. Here is what the shelter cannot support:
• Hospital bed patients: For those confined to a bed, hospital beds will not be available. Cots are available at the special needs shelters, on a first come first served basis.
• Dialysis patients: There will be no dialysis treatments at any shelter. You need to verify with your dialysis center that they will be opertional up to, and immediately following, any emergency event. If they will not be operational, you should make arrangements to stay outside the evacuation area near your backup dialysis center.
• Ventilator patients: We cannot support ventilator patients. You must make arrangements with a hospital or facility that can support your medical needs outside the evacuation area.
• Tracheostomy patients: No suctioning equipment is available. There will be no medical staff available to perform this procedure. You must make arrangements with a hospital or facility that can support your medical needs outside the evacuation area.
• Hoyer lifts: Hoyers lifts are not available at any shelter.
For more shelter information, go online to www.sjcemergencymanagement.org. For questions, call 904-824-5550.