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Hurricane Irma Puts SWFL's Special Needs Shelters to the Test

Image: Florida Air National Guard, Master Sgt. William Buchanan
A special-needs shelter in Duval County during Hurricane Irma.

Thousand across Southwest Florida sought shelter during Hurricane Irma, but some residents with disabilities or acute medical conditions required special needs shelters. But many didn’t register in time, and as those shelters rapidly filled, some in need of that special care had little choice but to seek out other shelters.

Ben Abes, Lee County's deputy director of public safety and chief of the county's Emergency Medical Services, as well as Caitlyn Eck, the Preparedness Planner from the Florida Department of Health in Lee County, join Gulf Coast Live to discuss preparing for special needs during hurricanes like Irma, what the hurricane taught us about the need for and use of special needs shelters, and and how those with the greatest need can ensure they’re prepared when the next hurricane hits.

Registration materials for Lee County special needs shelters are available online. You can register for any county in the state online with Florida's State of Emergency Response Team.

Matthew Smith is a reporter and producer of WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.
Rachel Iacovone is a reporter and associate producer of Gulf Coast Live for WGCU News. Rachel came to WGCU as an intern in 2016, during the presidential race. She went on to cover Florida Gulf Coast University students at President Donald Trump's inauguration on Capitol Hill and Southwest Floridians in attendance at the following day's Women's March on Washington.Rachel was first contacted by WGCU when she was managing editor of FGCU's student-run media group, Eagle News. She helped take Eagle News from a weekly newspaper to a daily online publication with TV and radio branches within two years, winning the 2016 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award for Best Use of Multimedia in a cross-platform series she led for National Coming Out Day. She also won the Mark of Excellence Award for Feature Writing for her five-month coverage of an FGCU student's transition from male to female.As a WGCU reporter, she produced the first radio story in WGCU's Curious Gulf Coast project, which answered the question: Does SWFL Have More Cases of Pediatric Cancer?Rachel graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a bachelor's degree in journalism.
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