Wildfire Safety Tips

Posted by on December 8, 2017

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Take Precautions When Smoke Causes Unhealthy Air Quality (tips from LA County Dept. of Public Health)

  • If you see or smell smoke, or see a lot of particles and ash in the air, avoid unnecessary outdoor activity to limit your exposure to harmful air. This is especially important for those with heart or lung disease (including asthma), the elderly and children.
  • If outdoor air is bad, try to keep indoor air as clean as possible by keeping windows and doors closed. Air conditioners that re-circulate air within the home can help filter out harmful particles.
  • Avoid using air conditioning units that only draw in air from the outside or that do not have a re-circulating option. Residents should check the filters on their air conditioners and replace them regularly. Indoor air filtration devices with HEPA filters can further reduce the level of particles that circulate indoors.
  • If it is too hot during the day to keep the doors or windows closed and you do not have an air conditioning unit that re-circulates indoor air, consider going to an air conditioned public place, such as a library or shopping center, to stay cool and to protect yourself from harmful air.
  • Do not use fireplaces (either wood burning or gas), candles, and vacuums. Use damp cloths to clean dusty indoor surfaces. Do not smoke.
  • If you have symptoms of lung or heart disease that may be related to smoke exposure, including severe coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, nausea or unusual fatigue or lightheadedness, contact your doctor immediately or go to an urgent care center. If life threatening, please contact 911.
  • When smoke is heavy for a prolonged period of time, fine particles can build up indoors even though you may not be able to see them. Wearing a mask may prevent exposures to large particles. However, most masks do not prevent exposure to fine particles and toxic gases, which may be more dangerous to your health.
  • Practice safe clean-up following a fire. Follow the ash clean-up and food safety instructions

Be Thorough When Cleaning Ash in a Wildfire Zone (tips from LA County Dept. of Public Health)

  • Do not allow children to play in ash, especially in wet or damp ash. Wash toys before children play with them.
  • Bathe pets to rid them of ash.
  • During clean-up, wear gloves such as household dish washing gloves, long sleeved shirt and long pants to avoid skin contact. If you do get ash on your skin, wash it off with warm water and soap as soon as possible.
  • If you have a vegetable garden or fruit trees, wash the fruit or vegetables thoroughly before eating them.
  • Avoid getting ash into the air as much as possible. Do not use leaf blowers or take other actions that will put ash into the air. Instead, gentle sweeping of indoor and outdoor surfaces, followed by wet mopping, is the best way to clean an area with ash. A solution of bleach and water may be used to disinfect an area, if desired. Read label on container for proper use.
  • Shop vacuums and regular household vacuum cleaners are not recommended to clean up ash.
    These vacuums do not filter out small particles, but instead blow such particles into the air where
    they can be breathed. However, HEPA-filter vacuums can filter out small particles and can be used.
  • A disposable mask with a rating of N-95 or better, which can be purchased from a home/hardware store, can be worn during clean-up to avoid breathing in ash and other airborne particles.
  • Avoid washing ash into storm drains whenever possible. Ash and soot can become very slippery when combined with water. Walk carefully, wear boots with good soles, and use as little water as possible when cleaning an area of ash.
  • Collected ash may be disposed of in the regular trash by placing it in a plastic trash bag first in order to prevent the ash from becoming airborne and blowing away as the trash can is later emptied.

Be Mindful of Food Safety (tips from LA County Dept. of Public Health)

  • Plastic bottles of liquid, such as water, that have been covered with ash should be discarded. It is
    not enough to rinse off the bottle as these particles contaminate the caps, making them very
    difficult to decontaminate.
  • Food that has not been stored in waterproof or airtight containers and has been covered with ash
    should be discarded. This includes products that have been stored in cardboard or other soft
  • Food stored in sealed, previously unopened glass or metal cans or jars, such as baby food, should be
    safe for use. Clean before opening and transfer the contents to another container before eating.
  • Generally, food in the refrigerator is safe as long as the power outage is short. Food can be held in
    the fridge for a few hours if, while the power is out, the doors to the fridge and freezer are kept
    closed to maintain coldest possible temperatures.
  • If a power outage lasts several hours, it is best to throw away perishable food items such as meat,
    dairy products and eggs.
  • Items that have thawed in the freezer should be thrown away. Do not re-freeze thawed food. All
    other food items should be inspected to ensure safety. Remember, “if in doubt, throw it out.”
  • If you have a vegetable garden or fruit trees, wash the fruit or vegetables thoroughly before eating them.

Be Aware of Fraud

Tips from LA County District Attorney