Summary of strategies for
are expected to create smoky conditions, people can pursue a number of
strategies to reduce their exposure. Those with moderate to severe heart or
lung disease might consider staying with relatives or friends who live away
from the smoke during the fires. If smoke is already present in substantial
quantities, such individuals may want to evaluate whether evacuation might
actually cause greater exposure than staying at home using other precautions
All people in a
smoky area (except firefighters or emergency personnel) should avoid strenuous
work or exercise outdoors. They should avoid driving whenever possible. If
driving is necessary, people should run the air conditioner on the “recycle” or
re-circulate mode to avoid drawing smoky air into the car.
Closing up a home by shutting windows and doors can give some protection
from smoke. Most air conditioners are designed by default to re-circulate
indoor air. Those systems that have both “outdoor air” and “re-circulate”
settings need to be set on “re-circulate” during fire/smoke events to prevent
smoke-laden air from being drawn into the building (note: this does not
apply to HVAC systems in office and commercial buildings; see Appendix A).
Once people have closed up the building in which they live, they should
avoid strenuous activity, which can make them breathe harder and faster. They
should drink plenty of fluids to keep their respiratory membranes moist. They
may even want to breathe through a moistened washcloth, as long as it does not
interfere with their ability to breathe.
disposable respirators (N95 or P100) available in hardware or other stores may
provide some level of protection from exposure to particles in smoke, as long
as a close-fitting model and size is selected and they are used properly.
One-strap paper masks, surgical masks, or other face coverings are likely to
provide far less or no protection.
for the fire season or a smoke event, it is a good idea to have enough food on
hand to last several days, so that driving can be minimized. It is also
important to have at least a five-day supply of medication for the same reason.
Foods stored for use during the fire season should not require frying or
broiling, since these activities can add particles to indoor air. Vacuuming
(except with HEPA filter-equipped vacuums) should also be avoided, since most
vacuum cleaners disperse very fine dust into the air.
If smoke levels
increase to very unhealthy or hazardous levels, it may be appropriate for some
individuals to stay in a clean room in the home, relocate temporarily to a
cleaner air shelter, or to leave the area entirely if it is possible and safe
to do so.