Wildfires do more than destroy property and land, they can also cause serious risks to human health. According to one report, there were an average of 61,410 wildfires each year between 2013 and 2022.
If you live in a wildfire-prone area, it's vital that you know what to do during a wildfire to protect your health.
Read on to learn how you can protect yourself and your family against wildfire smoke inhalation.
Risks of Wildfire SmokeInhaling wildfire smoke can be extremely dangerous, even if you don't have an existing respiratory condition. Tiny pieces of burnt materials called particular matter enter the air, presenting serious health problems.
Particles coming from wildfire smoke are small enough to enter deep into the lungs and even the bloodstream. There is much research showing that particulate matter causes a variety of negative health and lung effects.
The longer or more often you breathe in the smoke, the greater the risks of wildfire smoke are. That's why knowing how to deal with wildfire smoke is so vital for residents in wildfire-prone regions.
Wear a MaskWhile a mask can't protect you from wildfire smoke completely, it can help to block particulate matter. When shopping for protective face masks, choose an N95 mask whenever possible.
N95 masks are the best option to provide you with the best level of protection. They still can't block all of the fine particular matter from being breathed in, but they're much better than standard masks. A "regular" mask is not enough to protect you from smoke inhalation.
Filter Your Home's AirIt's vital that you know what to do during a wildfire, and in some cases, you might not have to evacuate. Even if you can't stay home, using the right air filter will keep your home's indoor air safe to breathe when you return.
Look for filters that have a high MERV rating of 9-12 so they filter out larger particles like dust and dirt. You can also use portable indoor air filters that can supplement your home's HVAC system filter. Place them in bedrooms at night or in rooms where you gather for extended time periods to keep the air cleaner.
Avoid Excess ExposurePart of smart fire safety is listening to your state and local officials. This may include directives telling you to stay indoors until the air quality improves.
Monitor your location's air quality to ensure that it's safe to go outside. In some cases, it may be best for you to stay inside and avoid going out for as long as possible until the smoke clears.
In Case of EmergencyBeing prepared means being equipped with any supplies you might need in an emergency. If you don’t have an emergency kit, there’s no better time than now to put one together. Keep your supplies in a small bag or tote so it’s easy to grab and go in the event of a disaster or evacuation.
Here are the basics to keep in your emergency bag:
- Water: one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
- Food: non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
- Extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
- Multi-purpose tool
- Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
- Cell phone with chargers
- Family and emergency contact information
- Map(s) of the area
- Medical supplies (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, etc)
- Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
- Games and activities for children
- Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
- Two-way radios
- Extra set of car keys and house keys
- Manual can opener
Home Fire Safety TipsIf a fire starts in your home, you may only have as little as two minutes to get out. During a fire, having an escape plan and working smoke detectors can save lives. Learn what else you can do to keep your loved ones safe:
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms, and outside sleeping areas.
- Test smoke alarms every month. If they’re not working, change the batteries.
- Inspect fire extinguishers regularly to ensure they are not corroded and the safety seal is still in tact
- Talk with your family about a fire escape plan and practice the plan twice a year.
- If a fire occurs in your home, get out quickly, stay out, and call for help. Never go back inside for anything or anyone.
Stay Safe During Wildfire SeasonRemember these tips to help mitigate the harmful effects of wildfire smoke. From staying indoors to using the right masks and keeping your home's air clean, you can reduce the impacts of breathing in the smoke.
For more great tips about health, wellness, and preparation, be sure to read the Complete Care Medical blog and view our catalog of products today.