How to Protect and Prepare Yourself for Wildfire Smoke

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How to Protect and Prepare Yourself for Wildfire Smoke

Categories: Essentials Planning Safety

Published 08/26/2020

Climate change continues to impact our community dramatically, with California’s annual fire season lasting longer and setting new records nearly every year. Wildfire smoke poses a number of public health concerns, especially for children, seniors, and individuals with underlying heart and lung illnesses.

Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke:

As the wildfires continue to affect the air quality in Alameda County, the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) reminds residents of the following guidelines to help protect their health from wildfire smoke:

  • Stay indoors with windows and doors closed
  • Keep the indoor air cool
  • Set home and car ventilation systems on re-circulate to prevent drawing in outside air
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water
  • Limit or avoid outdoor recreational and sports activities
  • Use an air filter, especially if there are elderly persons and/or children or household members with heart disease, asthma, or other respiratory conditions
  • Avoid smoking, burning candles or incense, and using wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and BBQs
  • If possible, leave the affected area for the duration of a heavy smoke event

How to Prepare for Wildfire Smoke:

  • Weatherize the home in preparation for wildfires by replacing or refurbishing old leaky windows and doors; use caulking to seal the openings.
  • Consider purchasing a non-ozone producing air purifier (HEPA) to create a cleaner air room in the home, or consider purchasing a MERV 13 or greater filter for your HVAC system to be used when we are experiencing a heavy smoke event.
  • Consider upgrading to an HVAC system that allows for both heating and cooling and has the mechanism to switch to RECIRCULATE to prevent smoke from entering the space.
  • Individuals with health conditions should talk to their physicians to develop a personal plan for the smoke.
  • Identify locations in your community that have cleaner filtered air spaces such as:
    • indoor shopping malls
    • local libraries
    • cooling centers
    • community centers
    • civic centers
    • local government buildings
  • Make a plan to go to a cleaner air location if you are unable to seal your home or if dense smoke occurs during hot weather events.

For more information on protecting yourself during wildfire season, please visit ACPHD’s Wildfire Smoke page or ACPHD’s Wildfire FAQs.

You may also subscribe to AC Alert to receive emergency updates from the Alameda County Office of Emergency Services (OES) or opt-in to alerts from one or more cities in Alameda County. OES also maintains a list of Clean Air Facilities and Cooling Centers as information is sent to the agency. Please check the links frequently for updates.

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