The headline on Pinellas County's emergency management Web site is: "Surviving the Storm: It's Everyone's Responsibility."
It's the main theme that emergency officials want residents to keep in mind, especially if you're a resident with special medical needs. If you don't register for a spot in a special needs shelter, emergency managers won't know where you are and won't be able to help you when a storm heads this way.
Besides needing space for the Tampa Bay area's oldest and most fragile residents, officials must plan to help transport those folks. Knowing where they are is crucial.
Each county has its own criteria for deciding who can go to a special-needs shelter. But, in general, residents with special needs are those who:
•Are medically dependent on electricity. An example is someone who uses a nebulizer to treat emphysema or asthma or someone who uses an oxygen concentrator or a feeding tube.
•Need help with routine wound care.
•Need help taking complex medications, such as multiple pills or medication that has to be dissolved or injected.
•In some cases, depend on dialysis.
Registering also is crucial because some residents will find out their needs exceed what a medical shelter can provide. Those patients should plan to evacuate to a hospital or other skilled-nursing facility.
There also are residents with medical needs who won't be accepted by shelters. For example, Hillsborough County's special-needs shelters won't accept people who are morbidly obese, in the third trimester of pregnancy or on a ventilator.
If you have special medical needs or are caring for someone with special needs, here's a "to do" list for you:
Register for a special needs shelter.
Arrange to have your pets taken care of.
Have the phone numbers of people who can check your home while you're away.
Identify one caregiver to go with you to the shelter.
Plan now to take these items:
Special dietary supplies
Medical supplies, oxygen cannula, masks, pulse oximeter, heart monitor
Wound care supplies
Blankets, pillows, air mattress
Towel, washcloth, change of clothing
Personal hygiene items (soap, toothbrush, adult diapers)
Do not bring concentrators
If you have questions or need to register for a special needs shelter, call:
Hillsborough County: (813) 272-5900
Pinellas County: (727) 464-3800
Pasco County: (727) 847-8959
Polk County: (863) 534-5600