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Special Needs Registry Critical To Hurricane Preparedness

Armen Hareyan's picture

Hurricane Preparedness

As another hurricane season begins, the Coastal Health District urges everyone to prepare now to protect their lives, their loved ones, and their property before a storm approaches our coast.

Preparedness is important for all coastal residents, but critical for those with special needs.

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"Evacuations are always tough, but getting to safety is especially difficult for people with special needs," says Annette Neu, Emergency Preparedness Director for the Coastal Health District. "That's why they should develop a plan with their caregiver, including when to leave, where to go, and how to get there."

Part of that planning may include a call to your county health department to be added to the special needs registry. Each county health department in the Coastal Health District keeps a list of special needs citizens who may require help during an evacuation. The registry is for people who need observation; those with contagious health conditions requiring some basic precautions; those with chronic conditions who need nursing care but don't require hospitalization; or those needing help with medications.

Residents must apply to be on the registry, and the Health Department can help determine if you qualify. Some examples of people who belong on the registry include those with Alzheimer's or dementia, those with portable oxygen in use, kidney dialysis patients, or those who cannot sleep on traditional cots. However, those needing IV feeding or medication, or completely bedridden requiring total care do NOT belong on the registry, and would evacuate to a hospital instead. People living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and personal care homes aren't eligible and must follow their facility's emergency plan.

The health department provides this registry to other area emergency response agencies. In an actual emergency, response agencies will try to provide assistance, but should only be depended upon as a last resort. "Even the best managed shelters are often crowded and uncomfortable, so we encourage our special needs residents to make evacuation plans to go with a caregiver to a hotel or a relative's home if possible," says Neu. "While the special needs registry is a good tool to help us know where our most vulnerable residents are, it should always be a last resort for people with no other way to evacuate."