How to Survive Bad Air from the Rim Fire

In Fire, Health

It’s well knows I was recently diagnosed with Asthma and that I take clean air very seriously and try to avoid things like wild fires whenever possible. Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky and can leave the area when the air gets bad. Here’s some tips from the Tuolumne County Health Department to help you cope with the bad air if you’re in the Sierra.

The Air Pollution Control Officer and the Health Department continue to recommend that people avoid vigorous outdoor activity when visibility in the surrounding area is less than 5 miles. Because the air quality can fluctuate significantly between different basins and ridges and at different times of day, relying upon the 5-mile visibility standard for outdoor activity will give each person a way to plan the days activities.

People with chronic health conditions, the elderly, infants and those with concurrent respiratory problems are most at risk when smoky conditions prevail. If you have relatives or neighbors with such conditions, this would be a good time to consider a visit with an out-of-town relative or to see if they may need assistance with providing their homes with a clean air location.

While at home or at work, it is best to keep windows closed during this time and placing your air conditioning units on a recycle setting will help prevent bringing smoke particulates into your living area. Even the quality of the filtration unit and the seal it makes in your device can improve indoor air quality. Room air cleaners can help, but HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters are most effective if they are able to filter at least two to three times the room volume per hour. If your home has large rooms, consider focusing you clean air efforts on only a portion of the building. Obviously, another important way to improve indoor air quality is to avoid smoking tobacco.

For those who are particularly sensitive to the smoky conditions and who are unable to stay in a clean air location, consideration of the use of a “filtering respirator” is worthwhile. Such devices look like simple face masks bust must be certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), with the words NIOSH and the designation “N95” or “P100” appearing on the filter material to be most effective. These respirator masks must make a good seal with the face and the straps must be in place for them to be effective.

Another consideration during this wildfire incident is to limit shopping and travel needs. This will not only help limit smoke exposure, but also will leave roads more open for fire response equipment and supplies. Those who need medications should assure that they have an adequate supply and might consider finding out whether their pharmacy offers delivery services to prevent unnecessary trips.

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