Take Shelter

What to Bring With You to an Evacuation Shelter

While evacuation centers may be a last resort, we’re glad they’re available for any of us who may need them.

By Bethany Ritz September 27, 2022

As of Tuesday night, Sarasota-Manatee residents in Levels A and B were under mandatory evacuation orders ahead of Hurricane Ian, and those in Level C were recommended to evacuate. Both Sarasota and Manatee counties cut off water access to help preserve water infrastructure on the barrier islands—Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key, Lido Key, Siesta Key, Casey Key and the island of Venice—and the counties closed bridges to those trying to re-enter.

According to Sarasota County's emergency management chief Ed McCrane, those who are in a home built after 2002 and outside of the evacuation zone can shelter in place.

But those in evacuation zones who don't have friends or family in safer places to shelter with, local evacuation shelters are open to the public, where folks can stay until it’s safe to leave. All evacuees seeking shelter should bring whatever they need to be comfortable, which may include an air mattress or their own cots; evacuation centers cannot provide chairs, bedding, cots or blankets. Each individual will be given 20 square feet of space for whatever bedding and supplies they bring. Click here for a list of local shelters. 

Two evacuation centers are available for the medically dependent, or those with special needs. In those centers, registered persons with medical needs will be provided a cot. However, family members and caregivers accompanying them should be prepared with their own bedding.

McCrane suggests eating before arrival and keeping snacks in a cooler. And if you have pets, make sure you have ID, a tagged collar, leashes, food, litter and anything else they may need. If your home is deemed unsafe for you to stay in, it’s not safe for your pet, either.

All shelters throughout Sarasota County are pet friendly, so for those who need to bring a domestic cat or dog with them to the center, they can do so. No shelter in Sarasota County will accept exotics, birds, bunnies or any pet other than dogs or cats. Only three  Manatee County evacuation centers are pet-friendly: Braden River High School, Manatee High School and Mills Elementary School. 

Both counties' general information line, 311, is operating from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily providing up-to-date information about evacuation or shelter availability. To reach the information line if you're calling outside of the county, call (941) 861-5000 for Sarasota County and (941) 748-4501 for Manatee County.

Before leaving your house, make sure to do the following: 

  • Locate the water shut-off valve for your residence. The valve is generally on the side of the house nearest the water meter/backflow prevention device, or may be inside the garage. 
  • Turn the valve to the off position. This will help minimize damage to the interior of your home should a pipe burst.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for turning off your pool and/or water heater, unplug them, and switch off the circuit breaker. 
  • Place an ice cube or two in a sealed plastic bag or small container in the freezer. If the ice cube has melted down from its original shape by the time you return, you'll know the power was off for an extended period of time and that you should throw out any food.
  • Turn off the power and shut off the water valve to your irrigation system.
  • Remove loose items, decorative and otherwise, outside the house and in the yard, and place them inside.
  • Alert friends or family members of your plans and how they can contact you.

What to bring to a shelter for yourself and your family: 

  • Bedding, pillows, cots or blankets. Remember: evacuation centers cannot provide these items.
  • Disinfectant wipes.
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Flashlight (in case your center loses power).
  • Insurance, Medicare or Medicaid cards, driver's license or photo I.D.
  • Your children’s immunization and other important health and insurance records.
  • Each family member’s medications, along with dosage information and physician’s contact information.
  • Drinking water.
  • Snacks or special foods.
  • Book or electronic entertainment items with headphones and chargers.
  • Change of clothing.
  • Personal hygiene items (including toilet paper).
  • Games/comfort items for children. 

What to bring to an evacuation center for your pet:

  • One gallon of water per pet, per day for three days.
  • Food and water bowls.
  • One week’s supply of food (with a manual can opener if necessary).
  • Medication, one week supply in a waterproof container or zip lock bag.
  • Current vaccination records and rabies tag/license.
  • Proper ID collar, a leash and a spare leash.
  • Carrier or cage (large enough for your pet to move around in and go to the bathroom in).
  • Cat litter, litter scoop and a litter box that is small enough to fit in a cat carrier.
  • Plastic bags for handling waste.
  • Disinfectant and cleaning materials.
  • Current photo of you with your pet in case you’re separated, along with up-to-date microchip information (80 percent of pets displaced by a storm are never reunited with their owners).
  • A comfort item such as a favorite toy, blanket or treats.
  • Basic pet first aid kit.
  • Paper towels.
  • Spare flashlight.
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