Sarasota County re-evaluating their approach to evacuation shelters

Reevaluating hurricane evacuation centers in Sarasota County

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WWSB) - Hurricane season officially starts Saturday, and we’ve been reminding you to prepare in case a hurricane hits our area. But there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes, especially when choosing evacuation shelters.

“We’re preparing for that worst case scenario,” said Ed McCrane, Emergency Management Chief for Sarasota County.

Hurricane Irma taught local leaders many lessons about hurricane preparedness. Since, Sarasota County emergency officials have been trying to improve their game plan. One of them is re-evaluating hurricane shelters.

“We don’t want to put people in any buildings that are not 100 percent sure they can’t handle a major hurricane,” said McCrane.

Right now, the county has 11 shelters listed for this hurricane season, seven in Sarasota and four in North Port. Officials consider several things when deciding on a shelter.

“If it has impact windows or hurricane shutters. The roof is properly tied down and properly built to withstand the wind. The walls built to withstand the wind,” he said.

During Hurricane Irma, local shelters took in 22,000 evacuees and 3,000 pets. Now the county along with the school district are looking into adding a 12th shelter at Taylor Ranch Elementary in Venice. But it’s unsure when that will happen, as they say a lot has to be done first.

“First we need to get the money approved, that’s what we’re in the process right now,” he said.

The county also depends on state grant money to help add more locations. The school district also looks at how it can lend a hand.

“There’s a lot of training with the county in particular with new systems we’re rolling out, like systems as registrations. We work with them too, to do mock/simulations, to make sure that everyone who is managing a shelter has the opportunity to know what their roles and responsibilities are,” said Tracey Beeker, Communications Director for Sarasota County Schools.

This time there will be three shelters designated for those who are medically dependent, which includes one for the region. Emergency officials advise the people who need them to register ahead.

“They need to register now if they think they think they’re going to be part of that and we’ll use medical criteria to determine if they need to go to that,” said McCrane.

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