In September 2017, when Hurricane Irma was barreling toward the Florida peninsula as a Category 5 hurricane, state and local officials ordered the largest mass evacuation in U.S. history. The Red Cross was ready to provide supplies and teams of disaster volunteers to staff evacuation centers/shelters where residents who had no place to go could seek refuge, and to stay if they could not return home after the storm.
As we all prepare to be Red Cross Ready for hurricane season, keep in mind that there is an important distinction between pre-storm evacuation centers/shelters and post-storm shelters.
Evacuation centers/shelters provide a safe place to stay for those who have been ordered to evacuate their homes prior to a storm. They typically are only meant to house people for 12-72 hours until the storm moves through. Because these centers/shelters must open quickly, it may not be possible to provide a cot and blanket for each person and it may not be practical to move in supplies for such a short-term.
Post-storm shelters are available for people who have been evacuated and are unable to reach their homes or whose homes are unlivable. Post-storm shelters will open within 72 hours after landfall and provide sleeping support items such as cots, blankets and pillows, meals, shower facilities, medical services and other support services.
Working with the applicable county, the American Red Cross strives to transition Evacuation Centers/Shelters into Post-Storm Shelters as soon as possible.
WHAT TO BRING:
- Water: one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation)
- Food: non-perishable, 3-day supply for evacuation and other special food items
- Bedding/sleeping items
- Prescription and emergency medications for all family members
- Medical supplies (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)
- Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
- Sanitation and personal hygiene products
- Personal care and other comfort items
- Photo ID, cash
- Extra clothing
- Special items for infants, like diapers, baby food, medication
- Family pets: kennel, food and special medication*
- Power cords for portable electronics
It is also important to remember that each county has different emergency plans and policies. It is best to do your research NOW so you are prepared and informed before any storm.
The Red Cross offers many resources to help you be Red Cross Ready for any emergency that may occur. Learn more at redcross.org/prepare or on our free Emergency App (search “American Red Cross” in mobile app stores). And for the latest updates in South Florida, be sure to follow us on Twitter @SFLRedCross.
*Not all evacuation centers/shelters or post-storm shelters allow pets. It is important you check with your county’s Animal Services Department to know their policies and plan accordingly.
Written by Estefania Garcia