Wildfire smoke occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic can increase susceptibility to the virus and other infections by causing irritation to the respiratory system, resulting in altered immune function.
How to reduce risk from wildfire smoke
Inform your community about these actionable steps that they can take to minimize the respiratory effects of wildfire smoke.
- Check the Air Quality index or Air Now to make informed decisions about daily activities.
- If air quality is compromised outside, seek cleaner air spaces inside.
- Use air conditioners, heat pumps, fans and window shades to keep air space comfortably cool on hot days. Try not to use equipment that circulates in air from the outside.
- Limit outdoor exercise when it is smoky outside or choose lower-intensity activities to reduce smoke exposure.
- Use an N95 respirator for protection from wildfire smoke. (These respirators might be in short supply as front-line healthcare workers need them during the pandemic.)
- Ask healthcare providers to recommend protections against wildfire smoke. Stock up now on medicine and essential supplies to minimize outdoor shopping trips. Use home delivery if possible.
- In the event of an evacuation, follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for staying safe and healthy in a public disaster shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Resources to help your community prepare for wildfire smoke events
The Environmental Protection Agency provides a Smoke Ready toolbox to help your community be better prepared for wildfire smoke. Additional tools available include:
- Air Quality Forecast Guidance. The smoke forecast tool from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
- InciWeb. Provides you with the location of wildfires in your area.
- Wildfire Smoke: A Guide for Pubic Heath Officials. Helps you to prepare for smoke events, to take measures to protect the public when smoke is present, and communicate with the public about wildfire smoke and health.
Prevent wildfires: actions that your community can take
Now more than ever, it is important that we all help to reduce the incidence of wildfire events and the smoke they emit. Teach your community how to prevent accidental ignitions and inform residents how to create safer communities by taking simple and often low cost actions to reduce the potential for homes to ignite during a wildfire.