Emergency Shelters

Many shelters in Rhode Island operate under a system developed by the American Red Cross. Shelter staffing can include any combination of municipal, social services and school employees with Red Cross volunteers.

Facts about emergency public shelters:

  • They provide emergency, short-term shelter to the public.
  • Shelters outside the storm surge and flood zones meet state building codes and provide a safer place for people who must leave the hazard areas. All shelters in the path of a hurricane are subject to high winds.
  • Emergency shelters may not be able to provide adequate supplies of food, water and bedding, so individuals coming to shelters should bring the following items to support their stay:
    1. Pillows, blankets, sleeping bags or air mattresses
    2. Extra clothing, shoes, eyeglasses, etc.
    3. Folding chairs, lawn chairs or cots
    4. Personal hygiene supplies
    5. Flashlights and batteries
    6. Quiet games, books and favorite toys
    7. Important papers
    8. Prescription medications

Pets are not allowed in public shelters. Individuals need to consider other options that include kennels or an animal shelter. Only daily living assistance animals can stay with their owner in the shelter.

Emergency shelters operate under Red Cross guidelines and provide basic first aid only. Individuals receiving home health care should consult their physician or home health provider concerning plans for health care needs and possible evacuation during an emergency.

See also: People with Special Needs

Emergency Shelter Listings

Each locality has a list of facilities (often public schools) that may be used as emergency shelters. In the event of a hurricane, however, some of these facilities may be in the path of the storm or at risk of flooding. When a hurricane is threatening Rhode Island, check here at RI.gov or turn to your local radio or TV station for listings. You will hear where these shelters are located and when they will open.

In-place Sheltering or Staying at Home

One of the most important decisions you will have to make is "Should I Evacuate?" If a hurricane threatens, check here at RI.gov or stay tuned to local radio or TV, and if you are asked to evacuate, you should do so without delay. But unless you live in a coastal or low-lying area, an area that floods frequently, or in manufactured housing, it is unlikely that emergency managers will ask you to evacuate. That means that it is important for you and your family to have a plan that makes you as safe as possible in your home.

People who live in storm surge zones receive a great deal of information on various sheltering options, but everyone in coastal Rhode Island is at some level of risk. This means everyone needs to do preparedness even if your home is reasonably safe and outside flood zones. A new idea for hurricane preparedness is the safe room. The concept comes from the tornado regions of the Midwest where residents learn to identify a central area in a structure away from windows and doors and on the first floor. Bathrooms, central hallway closets, or areas under stairwells provide the best locations. In hurricanes, families move into these areas with their disaster supply kits, flashlights, and portable radios or NOAA weather radios and stay there through the peak of the storm. This area not only provides protection from the wind, but also from tornadoes associated with hurricanes.

Pets and Animals in Disasters

Pets are not allowed in public shelters, so if you must evacuate, make sure you are prepared to leave them in a safe place; pets left behind can become injured, lost or ill.

If you own large animals, such as horses, you should also plan ahead and make arrangements for your animals. Contact your vet or local animal shelter for more information.