FNSS Considerations for Operating a Shelter

Shelter operations involve all procedures for opening the physical shelter to demobilizing and closing the shelter.

1. Sample Intake Forms

Sample registration forms that include a guest functional needs assessment:

2. Best Practices and Lessons Learned

FEMA Recommendations

Sample one day menu that takes into account various dietary restrictions such as reduced sodium and pureed food.Download DelValle Resource

Cafeteria at a middle school shelter

Sheltering Lessons Learned

View a recorded webinar by the Delvalle Institute for Emergency Preparedness of lessons learned and best practices in planning, management and operation of evacuation and sheltering, and the integration of the Nassau County Department of Health within the local, State, and Federal emergency response systems due to Superstorm Sandy.

Ready or Not Webinar

Other Tips

  • Effective Communication:
    • Personal actions from FEMA IS-368 details strategies that can help achieve inclusion of people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs in disaster operations.
    • The Effective Communications Toolkit from the State of Text FNSS Toolkit5 is designed to provide information to first responders and emergency managers about interacting with people with disabilities and to identify disability leaders in the local communities.
    • The Tip Sheets For First Responders were developed by the Center for Development and Disability at UNM in response to requests from first responders who wanted quick, easy-to-understand guidance on how to effectively work with people with a wide range of physical and cognitive disabilities in emergency situations.
  • Service Animals: See regulations from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts here.
  • Cot-to-Cot assessment: Conduct a systematic plan to meet each family within a reasonable timeframe6.

3. Tools for Shelter Operations

  • Hands-on Show Me tool created by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to reduce communication barriers and better assist individuals with access and functional needs. Order the booklet or download the app here.
Show Me
  • Shelter signage with pictures, courtesy of Massachusetts Emergency Preparedness Region 4b.
Shelter signage

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5 State of Texas FNSS Integration Committee. (2015, April). State of Texas functional needs support services tool kit. Retrieved from

6 Springer, J., (2012) A Cot-to-Cot Model for Meeting Client Needs in Disaster Shelters, Unpublished dissertation, University of Minnesota.