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Special Needs Registry sends help to those with medical conditions during disasters

Special Needs Registry sends help to those with medical conditions during disasters
Posted at 6:51 PM, May 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 19:38:43-04

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — With the start of hurricane season just days away, now is the time to have a plan in place, particularly if you have special medical needs.

In 2017, Hurricane Irma left 80% of Polk County residents without power.

“In 2017 we had a whole lot of people that called. They weren’t registered they waited until the last minute,” director of Polk County Emergency Management Paul Womble said.

Womble said first-responders quickly assisted people registered with the agency. That’s why he’s encouraging residents to register with the Special Needs Registry, before hurricane season begins.

The statewide registry allows people with medical conditions to receive extra assistance during disasters.

“They might be on oxygen, they might have some type of medical equipment that they need to plug in and have electricity during a storm,” Womble said.

You should also register with your local emergency management agency, if you need transport services to evacuate due to a medical condition or you need assistance accessing medication during a disaster.

Polk County Emergency Management has an agreement with area hospitals to have residents relocate to a medical facility, instead of a special needs shelter.

“If a person’s medical needs are above the capabilities of a special needs shelter, because there are some limits, then we’re able to work with them and help them come up with an alternate plan to go into one of those facilities,” Womble said.

Womble said don’t wait until it’s too late to register. Providing as much information as possible will allow emergency management officials to plan accordingly.

“If they wait until the last minute based on the demand they could very well call and if it’s a few hours or maybe even the day before the storm, at some point we reach our capacity,” Womble said.

The Florida Department of Health and each local emergency management agency in the state developed the special needs registry. You can register with your local emergency management agency here.