Wildfire Guide Part 2: Prevention, Precautions & Evacuation
National Geographic mentioned that most wildfires are caused by people—and can be prevented by people, too. Meteorologists are not yet able to forecast wildfire outbreaks, so people in fire-prone areas should plan ahead and prepare to evacuate with little notice. Based on National Geographic here are some tips to prevent a Wildfires:
How to Help Preventing a Wildfire
- Keep emergency contact numbers for your country handy, you can find the emergency numbers for all around the world here. Immediately notify your local fire department, or the park service if you notice an unattended or out-of-control fire.
- Never leave a fire unattended. Completely extinguish the fire—by dousing it with water and stirring the ashes until cold—before sleeping or leaving a campsite.
- When camping, take care when using and fuelling lanterns, stoves, and heaters. Make sure lighting and heating devices are cool before refueling. Avoid spilling flammable liquids and store fuel away from appliances.
- Do not discard cigarettes, matches, and smoking materials from moving vehicles, or anywhere on park grounds. Be certain to completely extinguish cigarettes before disposing of them.
- Follow local ordinances when burning yard waste. Avoid backyard burning in windy conditions, and keep a shovel, water, and fire retardant nearby to keep fires in check. Remove all flammables from yard when burning.
- If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
- Know your evacuation route ahead of time and prepare an evacuation checklist and emergency supplies. In wildfire season, it may be prudent to have a ‘grab bag’ ready with an emergency fire blanket, pollution masks, water, insurance documentation, spare clothing, and evacuation route details. This is very important during the wildfire season.
- Wear protective clothing and footwear to protect yourself from flying sparks and ashes.
Before Wildfire season, prepare your House in advance so you are able to evacuate immediately when needed
- Remove combustibles, including firewood, yard waste, barbecue grills, and fuel cans, from your yard.
- Close all windows, vents, and doors to prevent a draft.
- Shut off natural gas, propane, or fuel oil supplies.
- Fill any large vessels—pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, or tubs—with water to slow or discourage fire.
What to do if you are Caught in Wildfire
- Don’t try to outrun the blaze. Instead, look for a body of water such as a pond or river to crouch or submerge in if needed.
- If there is no water nearby, find a depressed, cleared area with little vegetation, lie low to the ground, and cover your body with wet clothing, a blanket, or soil. Stay low and covered until the fire passes.
- Protect your lungs by breathing air closest to the ground, through a moist cloth or pollution mask, if possible, to avoid inhaling smoke caused by wildfire.
Protecting yourself from Smoke Damage
The air quality during wildfires is very bad. As mentioned above protecting our lungs is important during wildfires because lungs are the main organ that we use in our respiratory systems. According to Oregon Health Authority (OHA), here are some ways to stay healthy during wildfires:
Know if you are at Risk
- If you have heart or lung diseases, such as congestive heart failure, angina, COPD, emphysema or asthma, you are at higher risk of having health problems from the smoke.
- Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke, possibly because they are more likely to have heart or lung diseases than younger people.
- Health threats from the smoke may also affect children because their airways are still developing and because they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. Children also are more likely to be active outdoors.
Recommendations for People with Chronic Diseases during Wildfire
- Have an adequate supply of medication (more than five days).
- If you have asthma, make sure you have a written asthma management plan.
- Check with your health care providers about precautions to take during smoke events. Especially, when you have a heart attack
- If you plan to use a portable air cleaner, select a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter or an electro-static precipitator (ESP). Buy one that matches the room size specified by the manufacturer.
- Call your health care provider if your condition gets worse when you are exposed to smoke.
Recommendations for Everyone: Limit your Exposure to Smoke
- Pay attention to local air quality reports.
- Listen and watch for news or health warnings about smoke. Find out if your community provides reports about the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index (AQI). Also, pay attention to public health messages about taking additional safety measures.
- Refer to visibility guides if they are available.
- Not every community has a monitor that measures the number of particles that are in the air. In the Western part of the United States, some communities have guidelines to help people estimate the Air Quality Index (AQI) based on how far they can see.
Track Wildfire Smoke using this tool:
If you are Advised to Stay Indoors, Keep Indoor Air as Clean as Possible.
- Keep windows and doors closed unless it is extremely hot outside.
Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. Running a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter or an electrostatic precipitator (ESP) can also help you keep your indoor air clean. If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter elsewhere.
- Do not add to indoor pollution.
When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns, such as candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves. Do not vacuum, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Additionally, smoking also puts even more pollution into the air.
Do not rely on ordinary dust masks for protection when there is wildfire smoke.
Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from smoke. There are specially designed air filters worn on the face called respirators. These must fit when wearing, to successfully protect against wildfire smoke. People who do not properly wear their respirator may gain a false sense of security.
If you choose to wear a respirator, select a minimum of “N95” respirator, N99 is even better. To learn how to select the correct size respirator, please click here If used correctly, a respirator will provide excellent protection against wildfire smoke. For more information about effective masks, see the Respirator Fact Sheet provided by CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
• Reduce the amount of time spent in smoky areas and avoid vigorous outdoor activities. If you have to spend time outside when the air quality is hazardous, do not rely on paper or dust masks for protection but N95 or N99 masks, to give full protection.