Hendry County Emergency Management - Special Needs Program

About the program

THE SPECIAL NEEDS SHELTER is available (at no cost) to Hendry County residents with qualifying medical needs only. Hendry County residents with qualifying medical needs must apply for registration each year as a Special Needs Client. The Special Needs Shelter provides shelter from Tropical Storms or Hurricanes for those who medically depend upon electricity for their livelihood and have no other safe place to go. The Shelter Program may also be able to assist with transportation to/from the shelter, but must be coordinated at the time of registration, well in advance of a pending weather event.  


It is important to apply in advance for this program so, if qualified, you will be on the county's registry for transportation and sheltering at the Special Needs Shelter during a disaster. All Special Needs Shelter Residents must bring a caregiver to the shelter with them.  The caregiver must be able to :

  • Assist you with all activities of daily living, including dressing and toileting.

  • Lift you to/from toilet and cot and wheelchair as needed.

  • Assist you with walking (with or without walker), assist with wheelchair.

  • Transport food from cafeteria to you as needed.

  • Assist with medication and any treatments as needed.

  • Monitor your oxygen usage.

  • Provide evacuation center management with a discharge plan in the event the you cannot return to your home.

You are permitted to bring your spouse/significant other and dependents (limited to high school age and below, living in same household) with you in addition to your caregiver. Many times the caregiver is a spouse/significant other; please be sure that they can fulfill the caregiver responsibilities outlined above. There is no guarantee that household members will be housed in the same room as you or that bedding/cots are will be available for them. 

How to apply:

Registering with the Special Needs Program does not guarantee you will be assigned a space in the Special Needs Shelter.  Your application will be reviewed by the Department of Health, and you will be assigned to a shelter where your needs can be managed.  Application's can be downloaded by clicking on the appropriate link in the table below. 



Special Needs Application  

Solicitud Para Inscribirse al Programa de Necesidades Especiales

Special Needs Program Checklist

Programa de Necesidads Especiales 

You must complete a paper application and fax it or mail it to Hendry County Emergency Management (we stop processing applications when Hendry County enters the five-day forecast cone of a storm, so submit your application early in the season.)

Mail to: Hendry County Emergency Management

Post Office Box 2340

LaBelle, Florida  33975               FAX to: 863.674.4040

What to bring with you:
Space at the shelter can be limited depending on how many people seek evacuation. Please limit your belongings to: clothing and personal hygiene items for up to three (3) days. Limit one (1) suitcase/bag per person, and bring clothing suitable for layering as the temperature of the shelter may vary.

  • Pillow and sheet or heavier blanket.

  • Two weeks of medications.

  • Extra small “travel” bottles of oxygen, if applicable.

  • Walker/cane if needed.

  • Wheelchair or electric scooter and charger, if applicable (NOTE: the shelter is very big and hallways are very long).

  • Any medical equipment/supplies needed (i.e. sharps container, catheters, incontinence supplies, c-pap, etc.).

  • Special dietary foods, in a cooler, as special diets cannot be accommodated.

  • There is no refrigeration space for food and only limited space for medications.


Additional items to bring:

  • List of current medications.

  • Phone numbers for emergency contacts and doctors.

  • Address and phone number of where you will go if you cannot go back to your home (due to damage or no power) when the storm is over. This is very important as the evacuation centers will close and a back-up place of residence may be needed.

  • Extra battery for phones and personal electronic devices as only essential medical equipment will be plugged in if the power goes out and the evacuation center is on generator power.

Be sure to label (name and phone number) all equipment and belongings. This will help us make sure you receive your items if lost or left behind at the evacuation center.

Before you leave your home be sure to leave your answering machine on or a porch light on to make it easier to determine if your electric has been restored.

Some things you should know about the program:

  • You must register every year. Your application is good for one calendar year only.

  • We stop processing applications when Hendry County enters the five-day forecast cone of a storm, so submit your application early in the season.

  • Not every shelter will open. Only those safe from storm surge and wind for each particular storm will open.

  • The Special Needs Shelter does require pre-registration and acceptance by the Department of Health.

  • Bring to the shelter things you need to survive, such as prescriptions, personal hygiene items, sleeping bag, pillow, change of clothes, glasses, special dietary needs, books/magazines/cards or other things to help pass the time while sheltering.

  • No food and water will be provided, we suggest you bring some food and drinks with you.

  • Service animals are allowed in all shelters. See the information about pets on the right side of this site.

  • The Special Needs Shelter is a pet friendly shelter.  If you bring your pet they will be housed and sleep in a different area from you, but you will have access to them for feeding, walking and spending time.


Final notes on what you need to know about the Special Needs Shelter:

  • The Special Needs Shelter will be open for those with medical needs that require electricity, such as oxygen dependence, dialysis, ventilators, nebulizers, etc.

  • You must pre-register for the Special Needs Shelter using the application above.

  • You need a companion/caregiver to accompany you during the time you shelter, as we have a limited number of staff working.

  • You will receive a confirmation letter and instructions to advise that your name is on the registry, and what to expect if shelters are opening.

If you have questions about the Special Needs Program, call 863.674.5400.



The registered person with medical needs will receive a cot upon arrival at the Special Needs Shelter. Pillows, sheets, blankets,  bath towels, and other personal care items are not provided.

Spouses and other registered family members accompanying the Special Needs Shelter Client, including the caregiver, will need to bring their own supplies. Caregivers will be issued one chair to sit beside the client. Space is VERY limited in the shelter.

Cots are 18” from the ground and hold up to 450 lbs. If you require a cot to hold over 450lbs, you must submit your request well in advance. The number of cots for up to 750 lbs. is very limited.

The Special Needs Shelter willNOT provide meals, snacks or drinks. Clients must bring their own foods. There may not always be a microwave available, so foods should be “ready-to-eat”. Additionally, special diets are not provided



Only service animals as defined by the ADA are permitted to stay with a resident at the Special Needs Shelter, or in a pet-approved evacuation center.

This is limited to dogs and miniature ponies that are trained to provide a service. Your service animal must be leashed and under control at all times and you must be able to take care of your service animal independently or with your caregiver.

Be aware that there may be a period during the storm when you will not be permitted to go outside with your animal.

NOTE:  Emotional support, comfort and anxiety animals are not defined as service animals by the ADA and will be housed as pets.




Pets that are accepted will be kept in a separate area. 

All pets must be current on vaccinations and have all necessary supplies (crate, food, etc.). 

If you do not wish to be separated from your pet you may want to consider evacuating to a pet friendly hotel outside of the evacuation zone. 

Once accepted into the Special  Needs Program you will be advised by Emergency Management and informed of that shelters pet policy.



You can do this ahead an emergency: 

Establish a personal support network.

Post your emergency instructions on the refrigerator.

Visit FloridaDisaster.org for more planning information.

Weapons, Smoking and Alcoholic Beverages are PROHIBITED at all shelters

Hendry County Emergency Management

4425 West State Road 80
LaBelle, Florida 33935