Friday, June 28, 2019

Time to get #SmokeReady

Despite the thunder and lightning earlier this week, we thankfully haven’t seen much smoke in Washington skies yet this year. All it takes is one spark, though, so ask yourself: Are you #SmokeReady? 

Some inexpensive tools, a little reading and a simple plan will make sure you and your family are ready for the summer smoke season. 

Here are 10 tips to help you prepare:

  1. Plan ahead with your doctor: If you or a family member has asthma, or suffers from heart or lung disease, have a plan to manage your condition. Children, pregnant women, and people over age 65 are especially at risk during smoke events. Learn more.
  2. Get HEPA filters, recirculate your AC, and share space: Use a HEPA filter in your home’s central air system or your air conditioner unit or air purifier. Learn how to turn your AC to “recirculate” in both your home and your car. Also, check with your neighbors. If you or your neighbor doesn’t have good air filtration or air conditioning at home, arrange to share spaces with those who do.
  3. Employers, plan ahead with your employees: Have a plan in place for employees who work outdoors. Consider alternate work assignments or relocation to reduce employee exposure to smoke. For staff that work indoors, ensure your air filtration system is protective for smoke. Prepare for employees to face childcare closures, home emergencies, etc. Check with Washington Labor & Industries for guidance.
  4. Have a Plan B for outdoor events: Have a contingency plan prepared in case you need to cancel, reschedule, or move an outdoor event indoors. (Make sure the indoor venue has good air filtration!) If you have children in summer camps or childcare, ask the organizers about their smoke plan. Check with your county health department about cancellation guidelines.
  5. Buy a respirator mask: If you’ll be outdoors long enough to need a mask, check into an N95 or N100 respirator now. Plan ahead to ensure it's properly fitted. Masks do not work for everyone, though, so test the fit and comfort before you need it. Learn more.
  6. Stock up: Have several days of water, groceries, and family needs on hand so you don’t have to go out when it’s smoky.
  7. Don’t forget your pets: If the air quality is forecasted to be poor while you’re away from home, plan ahead to keep your pets inside or with a caregiver. Learn more.
  8. Learn the air quality index numbers and colors: During periods of poor air quality, watch for air quality alerts, pay attention to numbers and colors of air quality monitors, and know when to limit your time outdoors.
  9. Get alerts: Sign up to receive air quality email alerts for your zip code. Also, bookmark or subscribe to the Washington Smoke Blog for statewide air quality and wildfire updates.
  10. Become an expert: Learn more about being Smoke Ready at EPA’s Smoke-Ready Toolbox for Wildfires and the Washington Department of Health’s Smoke From Wildfires Toolkit.

- Kari Johnson, Air Quality program

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