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ARCHIVED WEBPAGE: This webpage is for historical purposes and is no longer being updated. For the latest information, view the COVID-19 homepage.

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

A road sign pointing the way to a hurricane shelter

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
  • 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.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 vaccines help protect you from getting sick or severely ill with COVID-19. Staying up to date on vaccines makes it less likely that you will be sick with COVID-19 while sheltering or evacuating from a hurricane, and less likely to need medical services while hospitals are under strain from the natural disaster.
  • Know a safe place to shelter and have several ways to receive weather alerts, such as National Weather Service cell phone alerts, NOAA Weather Radio, 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
  • Follow CDC COVID-19 preventive actions including washing your hands often and covering coughs and sneezes. Avoid sharing food and drink with anyone if possible.
  • Follow disaster shelter policies for wearing masks and giving people space. Your actions can help protect everyone in the shelter, especially those who are at high risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.
  • Tell shelter staff immediately if you feel sick when you arrive at the shelter or start to feel sick while sheltering.
Help your children stay safe while in a public shelter
  • Teach and reinforce everyday preventive actions for keeping children healthy.
  • Be a good role model—if you wash your hands often, your children are more likely to do the same.
  • Help your children follow shelter policies for staying safe and healthy, including giving other families space and wearing masks if required.
  • 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 children. Help 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.

Infographic: Be Ready! HurricanesReady: Prepare. Plan. Stay Informed.Social Media at CDC Emergency