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This Week is Smoke Ready Week!

This Week is Smoke Ready Week!

June 09, 2022

Summertime is full of preparations. We get ready to take family vacations, pack for upcoming camping trips, host backyard barbecues, and spend time at the lake. While it can be exciting to plan for everything fun under the sun, it's also important to plan and prepare for another event that's common during the warmer months - wildfires.

Over 1,800 wildfires occurred last year in Washington State. Knowing how to stay safe when wildfire smoke affects our community's air quality is important for preventing illness and keeping ourselves and others safe. Let's talk more about wildfire smoke and how you can prepare for it.

Who's Susceptible to Wildfire Smoke?

While anyone can be affected by wildfire smoke, some people are more susceptible to illness from it than others. These include:

  • People over 65
  • Children and infants whose lungs are still developing
  • People who have had a heart attack or stroke in the past
  • Pregnant women
  • People with asthma or other respiratory issues

People who are sick with COVID-19 or are recovering from it can also be more affected by wildfire smoke because of the effect the virus can have on your heart and lungs. To learn more about who's susceptible to wildfire smoke, visit: spokanecleanair.org

How Can I protect My Health if I Need to go Outside?

If you need to go outside when the air quality is poor, the best way to protect your health is to wear a NIOSH-approved N95 mask that fits snuggly against the sides of your face. While many of us have been wearing either a cloth or surgical mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19, smoke particles are much smaller than the respiratory droplets that carry the COVID-19 virus.

This means it’s easier for smoke particles to go through your mask and reach your nose and mouth. An N95 on the other hand, when properly fitted, fits snugger across your face and filters out up to 95% of particles in the air, hence the name N95!

Choosing an N95 mask during wildfire season is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 and prevent wildfire smoke from causing illness too.

What is the Air Quality Index, and How Can I Use It?

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a helpful tool that can be found through the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency or by clicking here: spokanecleanair.org

It shows the current air quality and who should avoid going outside based on any existing health conditions. You can also use their air quality map to monitor the current air quality in different neighborhoods around the Spokane area.

How Can I Keep the Air in My Home Clean?

The best way to limit your risk of wildfire smoke-related illness is to avoid spending time outside. But you'll want to make sure your home isn't also contributing to possible smoke-related illnesses. Here are a few ways to keep the air in your home clean:

  • Keep your doors and windows closed to prevent smoky air from entering your home.
  • Avoid using candles, sprays, and perfumes to limit additional particles in the air.
  • Turn on the air conditioner and turn off the fresh air intake. This re-circulates the air in your home instead of pushing the air from outside in.
  • Install a HEPA filter, use an air purifier in high traffic rooms, or make a DIY box fan filter. You can find video tutorials on how to make one here:

How Can I Help Others During Wildfire Season?

You can help others during wildfire season by checking in with your friends, family, and loved ones. If you have older relatives, offer to go out and run errands or get groceries for them to limit their time outdoors.

It’s also important to know the signs of illness from wildfire smoke. These include coughing or wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a runny nose and irritated eyes. While allergy medication can help mitigate some of the effects of wildfire smoke, like watery eyes or irritated skin, you should seek medical attention if these symptoms become severe for you or a loved one.

Enjoy Your Summer, But Stay Safe from Wildfire Smoke!

Knowing how we can prepare for wildfire smoke is important for keeping yourself and your loved ones safe. We know you’ve got your summer fun planned, but don’t forget to prepare for wildfire season too! To learn more, visit: SRHD’s Wildfire Smoke and Poor Air Quality webpages