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Sarasota makes adjustments to special needs shelters for hurricane season

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SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - June 1st marks the start of hurricane season, and after some slight chaos during Irma, Sarasota County is urging residents to get prepared now.

Emergency management is urging medically-dependent residents to sign up for its medical needs program as part of its hurricane evacuation plan, in order to avoid some issues from last year.

Before Hurricane Irma, Sarasota County had about 1,700 people on what was then called the special needs registry. In the four days leading up to the storm, 800 people tried to get into the program causing a bit of chaos.

The county says these special shelters are more so there for people with medical dependencies, not special needs. So this year emergency management is referring to them as 'medical needs shelters.'

"We want people that need to have that support of having nurses and respiratory therapists and oxygen," emergency management Chief Ed McCrane says.

McCrane says anyone who needs power or electricity to survive is medically dependent.

There are still plans for two medical dependent shelters and a third as a backup.

If you are medically-dependent, emergency management wants you to sign up for the list now.

There are already about 2500 people on the list, up from 1700 from when Irma hit.

Also new this year, pets are permitted at these special needs shelters.

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