Hurricane Shelter sign pointing to school

Hurricane Season Shelter Guidelines

Public Health & Safety

This hurricane season, it is important Orange County residents are aware of any changes to available shelters in the event of a storm. With CDC guidelines on COVID-19 having relaxed, the state of Florida is allowing individual counties to determine the capacity of their shelters. Orange County’s Office of Emergency Management has decided on 50 percent capacity, which will affect how many shelters the County will activate.

“If the size and strength of the storm dictates it, we’ll open more shelters as needed,” said Karen Ross, Special Programs Manager, Human Resources Division. “Hurricane Irma, in 2017, was a huge storm, and we wound up sheltering 4,600 people in Orange County, but every storm is different.”

For this hurricane season, here is what residents need to know:

  • The County is anticipating opening shelters at 50 percent capacity for each location. This may change depending on positivity rates at the time an event occurs, but this is the current expectation.
  • The standard list of personal items (bedding, phone chargers, medicine, etc.) remains the same. If people want to wear masks while staying at the shelter, they can bring one along.
  • Hand sanitizers and disposable masks will be provided for those who want to use them or forget to bring their own. They will not be required, however, nor will temperature checks take place.
  • People with Special Needs (PSN) shelters will be open at an even lower capacity than 50 percent, so it is anticipated all three Orange County public schools designated as PSN shelters will be open. This could change depending on demand. Also, cots will no longer be head-to-head in rows but will face the same direction for better social distancing. All PSN shelters are pet-friendly.
  • Several pet-friendly locations will be open at the same 50 percent capacity as all other non-PSN shelters, and locations will be determined depending on the approach and intensity of the storm.

“There are a few things to consider when determining what shelters to open,” said Carlos Durden, Assistant Manager, Office of Emergency Management. “The storm, its direction and its impact towards a community is considered first, so if a storm passes over the east side of the County, we’ll more than likely open more shelters on the west side. Additionally, areas prone to flooding and coastal evacuations are determinants for when and where shelters will be opened.”

He added, “Now is the time to prepare. Florida already experienced one hurricane this year; it’s going to be a busy season.”

For more information on hurricane preparedness, go to the County’s Hurricane Safety Guide. For life-saving information including open shelter locations, water and ice distribution centers, evacuation routes, public service announcements and more, download OCFL Alert.

Photo Caption: Hurricane Shelters in Orange County. Photo courtesy of WKMG News 6.

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