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Pasco County officials review shelter activity after Hurricane Irma

All of Pasco County's 22 schools that served as hurricane shelters accepted pets. Officials are looking to improve the process before the next time shelters are needed.

Times (2017)

All of Pasco County's 22 schools that served as hurricane shelters accepted pets. Officials are looking to improve the process before the next time shelters are needed.

3

October

Pasco County school district officials can recite the numbers with ease: 22,000 evacuees with 2,500 pets filled 22 schools converted into shelters during Hurricane Irma.

The storm and its cleanup past, they're now looking beyond the statistics to the lessons learned from actual operations.

"We're looking at how we handled medical issues," assistant superintendent Betsy Kuhn explained, "and we're looking at staffing and training."

Despite all its preparations in advance, nothing short of real action could fully prepare the school system for an influx of medically needy residents as occurred during Irma, Kuhn said. So the staff wants to find any procedures it could improve and make changes.

The deployment of people also could use some refinement for future responses, Kuhn said. Some shelters had too many employees show up for shifts, while others did not have enough. That led to last minute shuffling, which could be avoided if the shelters have to reopen.

Then there were the pets.

The district planned first to open two pet-friendly shelters, which soon became five, and eventually all 22. Superintendent Kurt Browning has said he did not want residents to avoid seeking safety because they would not leave their furry family members behind.

But while high schools had tiled locker rooms to house the animals, other schools turned to regular classrooms, which created some cleanliness concerns. Questions also arose over whether families could stay with their potentially scared pets during the storm.

Kuhn said a group of principals and maintenance workers are developing more detailed guidelines for pets in shelters, as well. She said the final results would be made public when ready.

[Last modified: Tuesday, October 3, 2017 2:23pm]

    

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