Smoke Smart: Pro Tips to Protect your Family from Wildfire Smoke
The mounting impacts of climate change are being felt in all corners of Nevada, with record-breaking temperatures and extreme drought fueling catastrophic wildfires across the west. In recent years, smoke pollution from increasingly frequent, intense, and widespread wildfires has led to some of the worst air quality conditions in Nevada’s history, and these trends are expected to continue.
The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection's Air Quality Monitoring Team encourages all Nevadans to take the following steps to protect their families from wildfire smoke:
Before a Wildfire:
• If any family member has heart or lung disease, including asthma, check with your doctor about what you should do during smoke events. Have a plan to manage your condition.
• Stock up so you don’t have to go out when it’s smoky. Have several days of medications on hand. Buy groceries that do not need to be refrigerated or cooked because cooking can add to indoor air pollution.
• Create a “clean room” in your home. Choose a room with no fireplace and as few windows and doors as possible, such as a bedroom. Use a portable air cleaner in the room.
• Buy a portable air cleaner before there is a smoke event. Make sure it has high efficiency HEPA flters and it is the right size for the room.
• Know how you will get alerts and health warnings, including air quality reports, public service announcements (PSAs), and social media warning you about high fire risk or an active fire.
• Ask an air conditioning professional what kind of high efficiency filters to use in your home’s system and how to close the fresh-air intake if your central air system or room air conditioner has one.
• Have a supply of N95 respirators and learn how to use them. They are sold at many home improvement stores and online.
• Organize your important items ahead of time, including financial and personal documents. Know your evacuation routes and where to go if you have to evacuate. Make sure to prepare your children, and consider your pets when making an evacuation plan.
During a Wildfire:
• Pay attention to local air quality reports. Stay alert to smoke-related news coverage or health warnings. Visit AirNow.gov to find out the Air Quality Index in your area. As smoke gets worse, the amount of particles in the air changes - and so do the steps you should take to protect yourself. AirNow recommends precautions you can take to protect your health when air pollution gets bad. Smoke levels can vary a lot during the day, so you may have a chance to do errands and open up windows when air quality is better.
• Stay inside with the doors and windows closed. Run your air conditioner with the fresh-air intake closed (“recirculate mode”) to keep smoke from getting indoors. Seek shelter elsewhere if you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed.
• Follow your health care provider’s advice if you have heart or lung disease, and follow your management plan if you have one. If your symptoms worsen, reduce your exposure to smoke and contact your provider.
• Do not add to indoor air pollution. Do not burn candles or use gas, propane, wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, or aerosol sprays. Do not fry or broil meat, smoke tobacco products, or vacuum. All of these can increase air pollution indoors.
• Use a portable air cleaner to reduce indoor air pollution. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on where to put the air cleaner and when to replace the filters.
• Reduce how much smoke you inhale. If it looks or smells smoky outside, avoid strenuous activities such as mowing the lawn or going for a run. Wait until air quality is better before you are active outdoors.
• Do not rely on dust masks or bandanas for protection from smoke. An N95 respirator can protect you if it fits snugly to your face and is worn properly. These are not recommended for children.
• Reduce smoke in your vehicle by closing the windows and vents and running the air conditioner in recirculate mode. Slow down when you drive in smoky conditions.