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Emergency Preparedness

Never underestimate the value of being prepared for a natural disaster. The VA is here to help you, but the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center and Community Based Outpatient Clinics are not emergency shelters. In the event of a major impact, the VA Community Clinics may be closed for extended periods of time. Take the time to prepare yourself and your family. Veterans are advised to follow any evacuation orders.

Personal Preparedness checklist – Basic Disaster Supplies Kit

Your personal preparedness should include enough supplies for about two weeks:

  • Water – 1 gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Medicine – Your prescription medication, first aid kit that contains aspirin, non-aspirin pain reliever, antacid, antiseptic, scissors, and insect repellent
  • Personal Hygiene/Care Items - toilet paper, towels, soap, shampoo, dental needs, eyeglasses, and sun protection
  • Other supplies – battery operated radio, flashlight and batteries, non-electric can opener, portable cooler and ice, plastic trash bags, tarp or sheet plastic, cleaning supplies such as bleach, paper napkins, plates and cups, pillows, blankets, a whistle, a wrench of pliers to turn off utilities, local maps, a cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

Prescription Medications

  • Keep a list of all medications in your personal preparedness kit.
  • Keep a 15 day supply of medication and supplies on hand. Do not allow your supply to go below 15 days.
  • For medications that require refrigeration, make sure you have a small portable cooler or ice chest ready for easy transport if needed.
  • If you evacuate, bring prescription bottles, whether full or empty, of all medications that you are currently taking with you.

Your Pets

  • It is important to have a preparedness plan for your pets. Know which shelters in your community will accept pets. If you plan to evacuate to your family’s or friends’ home, make sure they will accept your pets, too.
  • Be sure to have supplies on hand like canned/dry food, newspapers, cat litter, and drinking water.
  • Make sure your pets have an ID tag, collar and/or micro-chip in case they get lost during the storm.
  • If you are taking your pet to a shelter with you, be sure to take supplies to care for your pet, such as food, health records, and a current license. Most shelters will require that your pet be kept in a cage or carrier.

The Calm before the Storm... Develop your Family Disaster Plan Now

The best time to make important decisions about your family's safety is before disaster strikes. Past events have shown that people who think ahead, prepare, and have a plan fare best during and after a disaster. If a disaster occurs in your community, local government and disaster relief organizations will try to help you, but you need to be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours (3 days).  Do you have a plan?  This may help Make A Plan

Elements of a Good Family Disaster Plan include:

  • Locating a safe room or the safest areas in your home for each hurricane hazard. In certain circumstances the safest areas may not be your home but within your community.
  • Determining escape routes from your home and places to meet. These should be measured in tens of miles rather than hundreds of miles.
  • Having an out-of-state friend as a family contact, so all your family members have a single point of contact.
  • Making a plan now for what to do with your pets if you need to evacuate.
  • Posting emergency telephone numbers by your phones and make sure your children know how and when to call 911.
  • Checking your insurance coverage - flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance.  Do you know what flood zone you're in?
  • Stocking non-perishable emergency supplies and a Disaster Supply Kit.
  • Using a NOAA weather radio. Remember to replace its battery every 6 months, as you do with your smoke detectors.
  • Taking First Aid, CPR and disaster preparedness classes.

You should have enough supplies in your home to meet the needs of you and your family (don’t forget your pets) for at least three days – 5 – 7 days might be better.

National Hurricane Center Advisory Schedule

When a storm threatens, the National Hurricane Center (NHC)  begins issuing hurricane advisories.

Full hurricane advisories are issued at:

5 am EDT, 11 am EDT, 5 pm EDT and 11 pm EDT

When a Watch or Warning is issued, intermediate advisories are initiated, usually at 8 am, 2 pm and 8 pm.

Just what does a watch mean? What does a warning mean?


WATCH A tropical storm watch is issued when tropical storm conditions, including winds from 39 to 73 miles per hour (mph), pose a possible threat to a specified coastal area within 48 hours.

WARNING A tropical storm warning is issued when tropical storm conditions, including winds from 39 to 73 mph, are expected in a specified coastal area within 36 hours or less.


WATCH A hurricane watch is issued for a specified coastal area for which a hurricane or a hurricane-related hazard is a possible threat within 48 hours.
WARNING A hurricane warning is issued when a hurricane with sustained winds of 74 mph or higher is expected in a specified coastal area in 36 hours or less. A hurricane warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves continues, even though the winds may have subsided below hurricane intensity.

Should You Stay? Or Should You Go?

Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the emergency, the first important decision is whether you stay put or get away. You should understand and plan for both possibilities. Use common sense and available information, including what you are learning here, to determine if there is immediate danger.

In any emergency, local authorities may or may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should monitor TV or radio news reports for information or official instructions as they become available. If you're specifically told to evacuate or seek medical treatment, do so immediately.

Broward County - Shelter Information

Glades County Shelters

Hendry County Shelter Information

Indian River Pet Friendly Shelter

Indian River County Special Needs Shelter

Martin County - Shelter Information

Martin County - Special Needs Evacuation Assistance

Okeechobee County Special Medical Needs Shelter

St. Lucie County Pet Shelters

St. Lucie County - Special Medical Needs

West Palm Beach Shelter Information

Rebuild Your Emotional House

Picking up the pieces after a disaster isn’t easy the road to recovery involves more than cleaning up physical debris. It also involves working to get your emotional house in order.

Suggestions to relieve or prevent disaster related tensions

  • Keep the family together. Togetherness provides mutual support for everyone. Make an effort to establish normal routines. Include children in safe cleanup activities.
  • Discuss your problems. Don’t be afraid to share your anxieties with family and friends. Let others talk to you. Crying is a natural response to a disaster and a good way to release pen-up emotions.
  • Set a manageable schedule. Make a list and do jobs one at a time. Establish a schedule to clean up and rebuild. Try to return to your pre-disaster routine as soon as possible.
  • Take care of yourself. Rest often and eat well. Remember that your children or other family members can reflect your fears. If they see you striving to adjust to the situation, they can learn from and imitate your efforts, enabling them to cope better.
  • Listen to what children say. Encourage your children to talk or otherwise express their feelings. Teens may need to talk to other teens.
  • Explain the disaster factually. Children have vivid imaginations. Things they do not understand make them afraid. When they know the facts they may deal better with the disaster.


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