Wildfires have raged across the United States recently, especially in California. Wildfires are exceptionally dangerous in dry areas of the United States. These wildfires produce smoke, a collection of liquids and solid particles in the air, that can be quite deadly to your health. Smoke is composed of various components such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and many more potent gases that can cause premature death.
Inhaling these smokes is the main public health threat of wildfires and it is critical to protecting oneself. Those with preexisting conditions such as heart or lung disease are at considerably higher risk from wildfire smoke.
We have compiled a list of safety tips to protect yourself if you ever cross paths with a wildfire.
Reduce the Threat of Wildfire Smoke with a Mask
Wildfire smoke carries toxic gases for tens or even hundreds of miles. Most people rely on paper dust masks for protection from wildfire smoke. These paper dust masks are designed to protect you from larger particles and are not designed to protect you from wildfire smoke. Dust masks are still vulnerable to the small particles that are found in wildfire smoke.
Instead of using a dust mask, you should purchase and use a particulate respirator mask. Particulate respirator masks are much more effective at protecting you against the hazardous small airborne particles found in wildfires.
These masks can be found at hardware stores, pharmacies, home repair stores or Amazon.
Do not take inhaling wildfire smoke lightly. According to the National Fire Association, smoke inhalation is the leading cause of death in wildfires.
If there is a wildfire near you, be sure to buy a particulate respirator mask to protect your lungs from the small deadly particles in wildfire smoke.
Stay Inside (With the AC On) to Avoid Wildfire Smoke Particles
If there is a wildfire near you and you see smoke outside, it is best that you stay inside to lower the risk of inhaling smoke. Close all the windows and all the doors to ensure that outside smoke does not get in. It is vital that you turn on your air conditioner or air cleaner on the recirculation setting so the contaminated air outside will not move inside.
Portable air cleaners with electrostatic precipitators (ESP) or high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) filters are effective at reducing the indoor particle levels but are not protective against odors and gas. Avoid using humidifiers or dehumidifiers to protect yourself from the small particles in the air during a wildfire.
It is also crucial to reduce other sources of indoor smoke such as candles, cigarettes, wood-burning fireplaces or stoves. Drink plenty of water to help reduce wildfire smoke inhalation symptoms such as coughing or a scratchy throat. If symptoms persist for several days, it is best to consult with a healthcare provider.
If you do not have an air conditioner in your house, and you are really warm or hot, it is important to pursue safety at an evacuation center near you.
Evacuate to Safety
Wildfires are notorious for burning down infrastructures, agriculture, and family homes. The American Red Cross, a non-profit organization for disaster relief, offers disaster shelters if an emergency causes you to evacuate your home. The American Red Cross offers free food and shelter that is welcome to everyone.
Check air pollution in real-time with this real-time air quality index visual map to see if air levels are safe and if you need to evacuate. Evacuate as soon as fire officials or health officials recommend you to do so. Follow their instructions immediately. It is your responsibility to be aware if a wildfire is in your path. Stay up to date by listening to the radio or watching the news for announcements from emergency personnel.
Cal Fire has an evacuation plan checklist to help you increase the odds of your home surviving a wildfire.
Reduce Your Risk and Stay Safe
Wildfires can typically occur anywhere and can leave an area in ruins. Take the necessary precautions to protect you, your family, home, and business. This guide gives you some steps to ensure you are protected from a wildfire. Take the necessary precautions and reduce your risk.