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Special Needs Shelters

Citrus County Health Department

Emergency Preparedness graphic for special needs residents. Image with service animal, wheelchair and oxygen tank.

The Special Needs Shelter (SpNS), located at Forest Ridge Elementary School, 2927 N. Forest Ridge Blvd., Hernando, FL 34442, is opened during natural disasters when Citrus County residents are encouraged or ordered to evacuate.

The Special Needs Program identifies a person’s disability, plus the special equipment or specific assistance needed during an evacuation. This includes transportation to a family member’s or friend’s house (within the county) or to the Special Needs Shelter, if you have no other sheltering option.

Who can use Special Needs Shelters?

The Special Needs Shelter in Citrus County is designed to meet the needs of persons who require assistance that exceeds services provided at a general population shelter. A SpNS is a place to go when there is no other sheltering option. 

If a person is medically stable but needs help with basic tasks or uses an electronic medical device and has no other evacuation options, they should pre-register for the SpNS.

Special Needs Shelter Registry

The registry is a confidential list of those who need assistance. The listing is updated annually through contact with registered individuals. Medical needs such as nebulizers, oxygen, feeding tubes, or Alzheimer's disease are examples of medical criteria for registry eligibility. Disucss your medical condition(s) with your physician before registering to determine what essential needs you will require.

If you need transportation or require special care at the Special Needs Shelter, and have no other alternative, register with the Special Needs Program by completing the SpNS registration form (link below) or by calling the Citrus County Emergency Operations Center at 352-249-2705.

Special Needs Shelter Registration Form

What to bring to the shelter (Please write your name on all personal items): 

  • Medication to last at least seven (7) days
  • Oxygen/oxygen supplies, including oxygen concentrator with extension cord
  • Special dietary foods
  • Food or snacks for the first 24 hours
  • Bedding (blanket, sheet, pillow)
  • Air mattress or cushioned sleeping pad
  • Two (2) changes of clothing
  • Personal hygiene items (i.e. diapers, deodorant, toothbrush, etc.)
  • Important papers in a zip-lock bag (i.e. insurance papers, credit card, money)
  • Plastic bags for soiled items

Companions may accompany registrants but due to space limitations, only one companion per registrant is permitted. 

Pets are allowed at the Special Needs Shelter, however, the primary care for the pet rests with the resident or caregiver. Staff may be available to assist. A crate, food and other items for the pet should be brought.

What to expect at a Special Needs Shelter?

A Special Needs Shelter does not provide the comfort or convenience of a home or hotel, nor does it provide the level of care found in a medical facility. A Special Needs Shelter is typically crowded and noisy, however, you can expect the following:

  • Food and water. If you want special food or snacks or have dietary restrictions, you must bring it with you. Food must be non-perishable.
  • Basic medical assistance and monitoring. Complex medical equipment or care is not available in the Special Needs Shelter.
  • An area for you and your caregiver to sleep.
  • Back-up electricity for light and essential medical equipment.

Agencies and organizations in the community have a responsibility to the special needs population and should have input into the design, activation, operation and deactivation of the SpNS. These organizations include the Florida Department of Health in Citrus County, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Operations Division, Nature Coast Emergency Medical Services, Citrus County School District, home health care agencies, hospice organizations, extended care living facilities, oxygen and durable medical equipment providers and others.

For more information, call the Florida Department of Health in Citrus County at 352-527-0068.