Special Needs


Residents with special needs, the elderly, and those without transportation require extra attention in order to stay safe during a disaster. Polk County has programs in place to help these residents prepare and find safe shelter.


A Special Needs Shelter is an emergency facility capable of providing special medical or nursing care which does not necessitate an acute care hospital setting. Eligible persons desiring special needs sheltering should pre-register with the Emergency Management Bureau. Registration information is available at the bottom of this page. A special needs shelter is a temporary emergency facility capable of providing care to residents whose medical condition may require:

  • Dialysis
  • Individuals with physical, cognitive, or medical conditions who may require assistance from medical professionals
  • Oxygen
  • Use of Electrical Equipment

Although special needs shelters provide more care than a general shelter, they do not provide the level of care found in a medical facility.


If you need a ride to a shelter, regardless of special need status, arrangements will be made with Polk County Transit Services to pick you up and take you to your assigned shelter. If you are a special needs client, you will be asked about your transportation plans.


Polk County residents are eligible at any age, who meet the any following conditions:

  • Activities of daily living are restricted by immobility that their basic needs must be met by others.
  • Cardiac or respiratory conditions requiring electrical medical equipment - oxygen 3 liters or less, apnea monitors, nebulizers etc.
  • Needs assistance with the administration of their medications.
  • Needs assistance with ostomy management, indwelling catheters (n/g tube, colostomy bags, etc.).
  • Requires daily assessment of medical condition by professional nursing personnel. (cardiac, diabetic).
  • Requires dressing changes because of moderate/copious drainage (ulcers, fistulas)
  • All others deemed necessary by triage nurse.

Persons who require evaluation and possible health care facility placement:

  • Bedridden persons and persons requiring a hospital type bed who, for medical reasons, cannot use cots for emergency bedding and persons requiring Hoyer lift transfers.
  • High risk pregnancy within four weeks of estimated date of delivery or in active labor. Normal pregnancy should get instructions from their obstetrician.
  • Oxygen dependent persons requiring oxygen 4 liter flow and higher.
  • Persons do not possess functional ambulation capability.
  • Persons in sudden acute medical or emergency condition.
  • Persons require continuous air conditioning for medical reasons.


To register for a special needs shelter and/or transportation, select one of the following options:

  • Call the Polk County Health Department at 863-519-7916
  • Call the Polk County Emergency Management Special Needs Program at 863-298-7027
  • Call your home health care provider
  • Complete an registration form and fax or mail to:
    Polk County Emergency Management
    Special Need Shelter Registration
    1890 Jim Keene Boulevard
    Winter Haven, FL 33880
  • Registration Form (PDF)

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