Emergency Shelters

Taking shelter is critical in times of disaster. This may mean going to a basement during a tornado warning, staying in an enclosed structure while a chemical cloud passes or staying home during a severe storm without electricity or water services for days.

Public sheltering, in times of emergency, is a basic component of the City's Emergency Operations Plan. There are several scenarios that may dictate the need for public shelter operations.

  • Limited individuals impacted. A single family or multiple families from an apartment complex fire would be assisted using normal day-to-day resources. The Red Cross and the City will provide temporary housing or hotel rooms for small numbers of displaced families.
  • Significant impact on population. If an emergency or disaster situation impacts a large portion or the majority of the population, a full activation of the City's public sheltering program will take place. There are several City departments and outside agencies that provide manpower and resources for public sheltering.

Sheltering Options

The best and most comfortable option is to make arrangements to stay with friends and family for the duration of the emergency. 

If individuals are displaced without anywhere to go, there are seven Winchester Public Schools and three City facilities that have been designated as potential shelters. Once an emergency or disaster occurs, a decision as to where the public will be sheltered will be made by City officials depending on the nature, extent and location of the emergency.

If a public emergency shelter is opened, everyone is welcome and we do not discriminate.

Staying Informed

The location of shelters and other important information will be made available through local media outlets, the City’s social media pages, this website, and the City’s notification system.

What to Bring

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 (i.e snacks or special dietary items)
  • Manual can opener and cooler, as needed
  • Portable flashlight and batteries
  • Folding chairs
  • Change of comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes
  • Sleeping bag/blanket and 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 and dentures
  • 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 (i.e cane, walker, etc.)

Shelter Rules

If these guidelines are not followed, you may be asked to leave the shelter.  

  1. You must sign in before being officially admitted into any shelter.
  2. You are responsible for your belongings. Valuables should always be locked in your car or kept with you. The shelter is not responsible for lost, stolen or damaged items
  3. Taking photos inside the shelter is prohibited. 
  4. Parents are responsible for controlling the actions of and knowing the whereabouts of their children. Children should not be left unattended.
  5. If you have a medical condition or are taking medications, please notify the shelter registrar for referral to the nurse.
  6. No smoking inside the shelter at any time.
  7. No firearms or weapons of any type on the shelter premises.
  8. No alcohol or illegal substances of any type on the shelter premises.
  9. Pets are not allowed in the shelter and must remain in the pet-designated area. Service animals - working animals who are trained to perform a specific function - are permitted in the shelter to assist their owner.
  10. Noise levels should be kept at a minimum during all hours of the day. Quiet hours are observed between 11 pm-7 am.

Pet Sheltering

The City may open a pet shelter if needed. The pet shelter will accept dogs and cats only. 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 while sheltering. All other animals, including birds, amphibians, reptiles, arachnids, and farm animals are not accepted at the pet shelter; owners will need to make alternate arrangements elsewhere for these animals.