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Ins and Outs of Hurricane Shelters

The one year anniversary of when Hurricane Irma made landfall in Southwest Florida, is less than two weeks away. It was a category 5 hurricane as it was moving through the Atlantic Ocean, leading to widespread fear of the damages that the natural disasters was going to cause.

This time last year residents throughout the area were contemplating if and when they were going to head to a shelter.

In Lee County, more than 34,000 people decided to go to a hurricane shelter during Hurricane Irma, which made landfall in September 2017.

SWFL residents that were seeking shelter were being rejected by the hundreds. Many were told that the shelter doesn’t have the capacity to accommodate more people. Others were informed that pets were not allowed.

Hello SWFL spoke with several residents who witnessed shortages of food, cots to sleep on and generators to supply power.

When preparing for a hurricane , your evacuation plan should have more than one option because shelters should be the last resort.

A 2016 Division of Emergency Management report said that Florida can’t support the over 5.6 million Floridians that the State ordered to evacuate during Hurricane Irma. The safe emergency shelter capacity can accommodate about 960,000 people.

Lee County has 16 designated recreation centers and schools that it uses as shelters.

In the event of an emergency, head to your county’s public safety website to find out which shelters are open. Lee County’s website keeps its list updated on when shelters will be in use.

If you have a family member who has a disability, you will have to register them at least two weeks before the hurricane is predicted to make landfall.

It is imperative to prepare ahead because the needs of disabled Floridians are not always adequately accounted. For instance, shelters may not have enough electrical outlets. This is a problem for residents that need a consistent connection to support equipment.

If your family member is on the list, expect a followup phone call from Lee County’s Special Need Program, in the event a hurricane is headed your way.

Debbie Quimby, of the Lee County Special Needs Program, said it will provide transportation to the shelter for people who have a disability.

“We’re going to call everybody on the list to see if they’re coming to the shelter,” said Quimby.

Additional reporting by Gabriella Milian