Emergency Shelters

In any normal year, a hurricane shelter should be a measure of last resort — a place to go if it is unsafe to stay at home to ride out a storm and there are no other options available to you. In light of COVID-19, that's truer now than ever before.

In the event of a major storm, the City may activate emergency shelters. While we will take every precaution possible to limit the potential for exposure to COVID-19, there is an increased risk for exposure in these types of congregate settings. It is for this reason we are strongly encouraging households to make preparations now to stay with family or friends instead of in a shelter. It cannot be said enough: DO NOT wait until the last minute to prepare!

If you do go to a shelter, know that they are often crowded and noisy. Social distancing guidelines will be enforced to the greatest extent possible, but the shelter is not private. Be prepared to live in close quarters with other evacuees for several days. Secure your home and shut off utilities (water, gas, electricity), if advised to do so, before leaving.

 Because each situation is unique, only certain shelters may be opened during an emergency. The City website, social media accounts, local TV news programs and radio stations will have up-to-date information on shelter locations and opening times.

For the health and safety of evacuees and staff, evacuees will complete shelter registration online prior to arriving at the shelter. The link to complete the registration information will be publicly accessible once the shelter is open. All evacuees and staff will be screened for COVID-19 prior to entering the shelter, upon re-entering the shelter, and once daily thereafter.

Shelters operate according to rules, please familiarize yourself with these rules (see below) before going to a shelter.

Virginia Beach Shelters

Medical Shelter

The City may open a Medically Friendly Shelter (MFS) if needed. The MFS is only activated for a Category 2 or greater hurricane or as directed by the City Manager. The MFS is for people who, during periods of evacuation or emergency, require sheltering assistance due to physical, mental or cognitive impairment, or a sensory disability that exceeds the basic level of care provided at a general population shelter, but does not require the level of care provided at a skilled medical facility. This includes helping with administering medication, personal hygiene assistance with activities of daily living (washing, dressing and eating).

The MFS is not for people who have significant medical problems, injuries or illnesses and/or that require total dependence on others for care. Examples:  bedridden, have NG tubes for feeding, require monitoring and pain management after recent injury, recovering from surgery, or who are contagious. 

​Shelter Rules Shelter check-in desk

  • Register with the Front Desk: Sign In and Out
  • Respect Quiet Hours
  • Help Keep the Shelter Clean
  • No Alcohol or Drugs Permitted on the Property
  • No Firearms or Weapons
  • Smoking is Only Permitted in Designated Areas
  • No Household Pets Allowed in the Shelter with the Exception of Service Animals. Pets Must Be Placed in the Pet Shelter.
  • Photos/Videoing of Shelter Residents or Inside the Shelter is Prohibited
  • Minors Must be Accompanied by a Parent or Guardian at All Times
  • The shelter and the city are not responsible for lost or stolen items.
  • All questions and concerns should be addressed with Shelter Team Members or the Shelter Manager. 

What to Bring to a Shelter 

Be sure to bring enough supplies to last at least three days for each family member. Supplies are often hard to come by ahead of a storm and may be even more so during a pandemic. 

You should gather supplies early — well ahead of any storms — and have them ready. Many of the items listed below are needed as part of any well-stocked emergency kit, not just for a shelter.

  • Face masks and/or cloth face coverings
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Bottled water
  • Canned/packaged food (snacks or special dietary items)
  • Manual can opener & cooler, as needed
  • Portable flashlight & batteries          
  • Folding chairs
  • Change of comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes
  • Cot/sleeping bag/blanket & pillow   
  • Quiet games, toys, books, cards
  • Phone charger
  • Hand-held devices (tablets, games) with headphones/earbuds
  • First aid kit and any medications      
  • Toiletries, glasses/contacts, cleaning solution, hearing aids, toothbrush/paste & denture.
  • ID, car keys, credit cards & cash.       
  • Photocopies of important papers (i.e. insurance policies.   
  • Baby supplies (i.e. food/formula, diapers, etc.
  • Durable medical equipment (cane, walker, etc.
  • Pet supplies.


The City may open a pet shelter if needed. The pet shelter will accept dogs, cats, birds, turtles, and other small mammals. Owners should plan to bring a leash/collar, crate, food, medicine, a vaccination record, and comfort care items. Owners will be expected to care for their pet and will have a scheduled time to do so to ensure adequate social distancing. Amphibians, reptiles, arachnids, and farm animals are not accepted at the pet shelter; owners will need to make alternate arrangements elsewhere for those animals.

Prohibited Items
No smoking mark

  • Alcohol, drugs, other illegal substances
  • Loud radios or televisions
  • Smoking, matches, lighters
  • Weapons of any kind (guns, knives, chains, etc.)
It Is a Good Idea to Consider Going to a Shelter If:
Girl in sleeping bag
  • You live in an evacuation zone where there likely will be flooding
  • You live in a mobile home or trailer
  • You live in a high-rise. Winds are much stronger at higher elevations
  • You know your building is unsafe and you can't repair it before the storm
  • You use life-support equipment that requires electricity

 Staying with family or friends may be your best option if you are concerned about staying in a public shelter. Please make arrangements now to work out a suitable plan to stay with others during a storm — consider what areas of a house you would occupy to socially distance from other family members and friends. If none of these conditions apply to you, you should think about staying put and fortifying your home, something experts call "sheltering in place." However, if your house is not prepared and fortified or windows and doors are not properly covered, even the weaker winds at the perimeter of a hurricane can cause serious damage. Always listen to local emergency officials for emergency protective actions you should take during a tropical storm or hurricane. 

Updated: 07/30/2020

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