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Going to a Public Disaster Shelter During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Emergency managers, shelter managers, and public health professionals are taking measures to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19 among people who seek safety in a disaster shelter during severe weather events.

Here are some tips to help you prepare and lower the risk of infection while staying safe in a shelter.

Prepare to shelter

  • If you may need to evacuate, prepare a “go kit” with personal items you cannot do without during an emergency. Include items that can help protect you and others from COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, bar or liquid soap, disinfectant wipes (if available) and multiple clean masks for everyone age 2 or older. Masks should have two or more layers and fit snugly against your face. They should not be used by people having trouble breathing, or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the mask without assistance.

  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can. COVID-19 vaccines help protect you from getting sick or severely ill with COVID-19 and may also help protect people around you.

  • Know a safe place to shelter and have several ways to receive weather alerts, such as National Weather Service cell phone alertsexternal iconNOAA Weather Radioexternal icon, or (@NWS) Twitter alerts.

  • Find out if your local public shelter is open, in case you need to evacuate your home and go there. Your shelter location may be different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Follow guidance from your local public health or emergency management officials on when and where to shelter.

  • Make a plan and prepare a disaster kit for your pets. Find out if your disaster shelter will accept pets. Typically, when shelters accommodate pets, the pets are housed in a separate area from people.

Protect yourself and others while in a public shelter

  • Practice social distancing. Stay at least 6 feet from other people outside of your household.

  • Follow CDC COVID-19 preventive actions—wash your hands often, cover coughs and sneezes, and follow shelter policies for wearing masks. Avoid sharing food and drink with anyone if possible.

  • Follow disaster shelter policies and procedures designed to protect everyone in the shelter, especially those who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions.

  • Avoid touching high-touch surfaces, such as tabletops, as much as possible. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol immediately after you touch these surfaces.

  • Keep your living area in the shelter clean and disinfect frequently-touched items such as toys, cellphones, and other electronics.

  • If you feel sick when you arrive at the shelter or start to feel sick while sheltering, tell shelter staff immediately.

  • The risk of COVID-19 in a public disaster shelter is lower for fully vaccinated people. However, precautions should still be taken, as transmission risk in these settings is higher and likely increases with the number of unvaccinated people present. Thus, fully vaccinated shelter residents should continue to follow all rules set by the shelter which may include wearing masks correctly, maintaining physical distance (at least 6 feet), covering coughs and sneezes, and washing hands frequently.

Help your children stay safe while in a public shelter

  • Teach and reinforce everyday preventive actions for keeping children healthy.

  • Make sure children aged 2 and older wear clean masks. Masks should have two or more layers and fit snugly against their face. Masks should not be used by children under the age of 2. They also should not be used by people having trouble breathing, or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the mask without assistance.

  • Be a good role model—if you wash your hands often, your children are more likely to do the same.

  • Help your children stay at least 6 feet away from anyone who is not in your household.

  • Watch your child for any signs of illness and tell shelter staff if your child may be ill.

  • Try to deal with the disaster calmly and confidently, as this can provide the best support for your childrenHelp children cope with emergencies.

Protect your pets while in a public shelter

  • A small number of pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, have been reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19. Be careful when taking an animal into a location where it could be exposed to COVID-19.

  • Treat pets as you would other human family members – do not let pets interact with people outside the household.

  • Practice good pet hygiene and wash your hands before and after handling pets, their food, waste, or supplies.

  • Do not put a mask on pets. Masks could harm your pet.

  • Pay attention to local guidance about updated plans for evacuations and shelters, in addition to CDC’s guidance on potential shelters for your pets and service and therapy animals.

For more information

Be Red Cross Ready

Hurricanes are strong storms
that cause life- and property threatening hazards such as
flooding, storm surge, high winds
and tornadoes.
Preparation is the best protection
against the dangers of a hurricane.
❏ Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).
❏ Check your disaster supplies and
replace or restock as needed.
❏ Bring in anything that can be picked up by the wind (bicycles, lawn furniture).
❏ Close windows, doors and hurricane shutters. If you do not have hurricane shutters, close and board up all windows and doors with plywood.
❏ Turn the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting and keep them closed as much as possible so that food will last longer if the power goes out.
❏ Turn off propane tanks and unplug small appliances.
❏ Fill your car’s gas tank.
❏ Talk with members of your household and create an evacuation plan.
Planning and practicing your
evacuation plan minimizes confusion and fear during the event.
❏ Learn about your community’s
hurricane response plan. Plan routes to local shelters, register family members with special medical needs as required
and make plans for your pets to be
cared for.
❏ Evacuate if advised by authorities. Be careful to avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges. Hurricane Safety Checklist
❏ Because standard homeowners
insurance doesn’t cover flooding, it’s important to have protection from the floods associated with hurricanes, tropical storms, heavy rains and other conditions that impact the U.S. For more information on flood insurance,
please visit the National Flood
Insurance Program Web site at
Let Your Family Know You’re Safe
Know the Difference
Hurricane Watch—Hurricane conditions are a threat within 48 hours.
Review your hurricane plans, keep informed and be ready to act if a warning is issued.
Hurricane Warning—Hurricane conditions are expected within 36
hours. Complete your storm preparations and leave the area if directed to do so by authorities.
What should I do?
What supplies do I need?
What do I do after a hurricane?
❏ Water—at least a 3-day supply; one gallon per person per day
❏ Food—at least a 3-day supply of
non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food
❏ Flashlight
❏ Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
❏ Extra batteries
❏ First aid kit
❏ Medications (7-day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)
❏ Multi-purpose tool
❏ Sanitation and personal hygiene items
❏ Copies of personal documents
(medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
❏ Cell phone with chargers
❏ Family and emergency contact
❏ Extra cash
❏ Emergency blanket
❏ Map(s) of the area
❏ Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
❏ Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
❏ Tools/supplies for securing your home
❏ Extra set of car keys and house keys
❏ Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
❏ Rain gear
❏ Insect repellent and sunscreen
❏ Camera for photos of damage


If your community has experienced a hurricane, or any disaster, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well Web site available through to let your family and friends know about your welfare. If you don’t have Internet access, call1-866-GET-INFO to register yourself and your family.

❏ Continue listening to a NOAA Weather Radio or the local news for the latest updates.

❏ Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended.

❏ If you evacuated, return home only when officials say it is safe.

❏ Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges.

❏ Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company.❏ Stay out of any building that has water around it.

❏ Inspect your home for damage. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes.

❏ Use flashlights in the dark. Do NOT use candles.

❏ Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are sure it’s not contaminated.

❏ Check refrigerated food for spoilage. If in doubt, throw it out.

❏ Wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up to avoid injury.

❏ Watch animals closely and keep them under your direct control.

❏ Use the telephone only for emergency calls.  For more information on disaster and emergency preparedness, visit


Copyright © 2009 by the American National Red Cross | Stock No. 658543 1/10

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