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Guide to Medical Special Needs Shelters


“Sheltering is often the most critical element in protecting the population in times of disaster. Sheltering provides mass care for people who cannot safely remain in their homes due to an emergency.”1 Increasingly, Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) units are being tasked with supporting shelter operations in their communities, particularly for individuals with medical special needs. Medical special needs shelters are intended to provide temporary care and housing for individuals with chronic medical conditions requiring regular medical treatment (which is usually provided in the home), such as:

  • Foley catheter maintenance
  • Diabetes
  • Medication management
  • Blood pressure monitoring
  • Ostomy care
  • Stable oxygen and nebulizer therapy

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance and information for MRC units tasked with supporting medical special needs shelters. Although shelter needs and operations differ across communities, and despite the fact that MRC units responsible for supporting medical special needs shelters have varying capabilities, there are some general principles and best practices that may be applicable to the majority of MRC units with these sheltering responsibilities. This guidance seeks to present this information—in the form of considerations, recommendations, and resources—to assist MRC members with the delivery of health and medical services in support of shelter operations for medical special needs populations. This guidance does not attempt to prescribe general practices and procedures associated with the operation of medical special needs shelters (e.g., how to set up a medical special needs shelter, recommended supplies and equipment for medical special needs shelters, etc.).

Table of Contents

1 Federal Emergency Management Agency, IS-197.EM, Special Needs Planning Considerations: Emergency Management,


10/27/2014 8:31:43 AM