What to Do When Smoke Is Present
Incident: Rim Fire Wildfire
What To Do When Smoke is Present
During wildfires, smoke can drift into towns and cities, affecting the quality of air. While this is a concern to communities, much can be done to minimize exposure to smoke, especially if you take advantage of the timing and variation in smoke impacts over the course of the day. Smoke always follows a pattern over the course of the day… often worst after late evening into early morning, and best late morning and early afternoon. (unless a smoke plume comes down from on high). In any case, there’s often a pattern, so pay attention to the patterns that set up during smoke events (and advisories from health officials). The following helpful hints will tell what to do and what not to do during these conditions.
1. Children, seniors, people with chronic respiratory problems, and other sensitive individuals should reduce activity outdoors during the hours when smoke is highest in concentration, and try to target outdoor activities to hours when smoke is least concentrated. The worse the smoke or the more sensitive the individual, the more important it is to make these adjustments
2. Keep windows closed during smoky hours. If possible, run air conditioners IN RECIRCULATE MODE inside the house and car. Recirculation (rather than allowing the fan to pull in outside air) is key to keeping the smoke out.
3. Run HEPA filters inside to filter out dust and particles that do get into your house.
4. If this is not a possibility, it is recommended to stay with a friend or relative who has one. It helps to get a break from smoke in clean air for a substantial number of hours at least equal to the hours of exposure to smoke.
5. Reduce physical activities during smokey hours, and confine activity that must be done to cleanest hours, if possible. This will minimize the dose of inhaled pollutants and minimize health risks during a smoke event.
6. Reduce other sources of indoor air pollution. Burning cigarettes, gas, propane and wood burning stoves and furnaces and activities such as cooking, burning candles and incense and vacuuming can greatly increase the particle levels in a home and should be avoided when wildfire smoke is present.
7. Room air cleaners are good to have during smoke emergencies. Make sure that it is a true air cleaner and not a humidifier. If you choose to purchase one, do so before a smoke emergency occurs to avoid having to go to the store and breathing the smoke.
8. Wearing air masks and bandanas are not recommended. Masks (unless they are custom fitted “N95” and bandanas provide little, if any protection. They are uncomfortable and may make breathing difficult.
For more information, visit http://oehha.ca.gov/air/risk_assess/wildfirev8.pdf (has revised 2012 AQI Values