Prepare for hurricane season with the Pinellas County Special Needs Evacuation Assistance Program

We rounded up info about the program, how to register, and what to expect.

Flooding in the Coffee Pot Bayou area. There is standing water in the road with trees above and houses lining the street.

Parts of Pinellas County are especially flood-prone.

Photo by TBAYtoday

It’s never too early to start preparing for hurricane season. Although the season doesn’t officially begin until June 1 in the Tampa Bay area, officials in Pinellas County are doing the rounds + making important phone calls in the coming weeks to those on their Special Needs Evacuation Assistance Program.

Here’s a quick heads up before we get started: a similar program exists in Hillsborough County, too.

Here is the need-to-know info:

How it works

Pinellas County’s program is activated during times of emergency evacuation, including hurricanes. In those instances, people who are a part of the initiative will receive a phone call to confirm their transportation needs + will then be taken to shelters.

A list of public shelters is also posted online + released to local media during emergencies.

Officials advise bringing necessities + comforts with you, including nonperishable food items for those with dietary restrictions, medications, bedding and blankets, clothing, and personal hygiene items. Caregivers are also welcome + encouraged to join.

A flooded street with clouds above. Rain is falling and there are houses on both sides of the street under white cloudy skies.

Hurricane Idalia caused parts of TBAY to flood.

Photo by TBAYtoday

Who is eligible?

The program currently has ~4,500 people on its registry with special needs. Make sure to apply if you think you meet eligibility requirements, which include:

  • Needing oxygen
  • Dependent on electricity, such as CPAP users
  • Needing help with routine care + medications
  • Mobility + transportation assistance

Can my dog come?

While pets are not allowed in special needs shelters, they can attend pet-friendly public shelters.

Trained service animals are permitted at any shelter. For those without emergency evacuation options for pets, make sure to phone + register with Pinellas County Animal Services who can help out.

What’s happening now?

If you’re already part of the program, you can expect a call Tuesday, Feb. 20 to Friday, Feb. 23 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., or between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26 to Wednesday, Feb. 28. This call is a check-in to make sure your contact information is up to date.

Officials will try to call twice. If you miss both calls, you will be sent a new registration form which must be completed to stay on the registry.