Currently, there are just over 1,350 registered for the county's medically dependent program.
With Hurricane Dorian moving north along the Atlantic coast of Florida, Sarasota County has demobilized its emergency operations.
The hurricane, which was projected to be a Category 5, is now a Category 2 and will skirt Floria’s east coast and travel north toward Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and possibly parts of Virginia.
Although Sarasota County won’t see too many effects in Dorian’s wake, emergency management chief Ed McCrane said it’s a good reminder to prepare for peak hurricane season, which runs through late October.
Residents should know their evacuation routes and pack a hurricane kit to help avoid the rush on grocery stores. More important, McCrane said residents should plan for what they would do in the event of an evacuation.
One such plan could mean preparation for a medically dependent hurricane shelter, which are open to county residents who have special medical needs.
The county has three shelters designated as medically dependent, two in North Port and one in north Sarasota. Once residents register as medically dependent, they are given information on which location they should travel to in the event of an evacuation.
Once there, the person registered with medical needs will receive a cot, sheet, light blanket and bath towel. They should still bring pillows, additional blankets, medication, oxygen, insurance, state-issued identification, snacks and caregiver who can assist with all daily activities. If a medically dependent person’s caregiver is not their spouse, their spouse and dependents may also join them at the center.
The three shelters all have generators to run the air conditioning for the entire building in the event that power goes out. Additionally, limited refrigerator space will be provided for medication.
“We want people to understand this program is for people with certain medical needs, not just for anybody,” McCrane said. “There are people who are healthy enough to go to a regular shelter. They don’t need to go to one like this.”
Currently, there are just over 1,350 people registered in the program county-wide, though McCrane said that number is always changing.
During Hurricane Irma, people registered for the program as soon as three days before the storm hit, and the county wasn’t able to plan effectively for them, so McCrane urges residents to register as soon as possible. Registration can be completed online or by mailing in a form.
“We don’t want people to register while the storm is raging,” McCrane said. “It is the peak of hurricane season and we don’t want people to wait until the last minute to be prepared.”
In addition to reserving shelter space, medically dependent individuals can arrange to be picked up and transported to their designated shelter, though McCrane said this should only be used by people who can’t transport themselves.
New this year, all shelters will accept pets provided they have a crate, food and water and are up to date on all vaccinations. However, all pets, with the exception of service animals defined by the ADA, will be kept in a separate part of the shelters. This includes emotional support animals.
For more information on the program, what to pack and transportation services in the event of a hurricane, visit the county’s website.