Outdoor air pollution from vehicles and industry can be reduced though new laws and technologies, but that’s not true for wildfire smoke. In addition, we can’t stop breathing when it’s smoky and it’s not practical to relocate to less smoky locations.
Wildfire smoke is both inevitable and largely unpredictable, so we need to become resilient to smoke by changing our activities and behaviours to limit exposure and protect health.
2. Identify others you want to support. There may be people outside your household you want to help during a smoke episode, particularly older adults in your family or community. Keep them in mind as you develop your plans.
4. Stock up on rescue medications. There can be high demand for medications such as inhalers when it gets smoky, and highly sensitive people may be less mobile. It is best to stock up on these medications before the season begins, so they are readily available when needed. Always travel with your rescue medications during wildfire season.
6. Get ready to shelter in place. Think about how to keep the air in your home (or areas of your home, especially bedrooms) cleaner by closing windows, running your forced air system on recirculate and using portable air cleaners. Beware of getting too hot, though — overheating is a bigger health risk than breathing smoke for most people.
8. Use technology to your advantage. Applications such as WeatherCAN and AQHI Canada (in Canada) and AirNow and SmokeSense (in the U.S.) can help you keep track of current conditions and air quality forecasts. Some local agencies provide email and text services to notify subscribers about changing conditions — Google can probably help you find them!
9. Bookmark important information. In the morning, check the FireWork, BlueSky and AirNow smoke forecasts for the day. These can help you to understand where fires are currently burning, and where the smoke is likely to travel. You can also bookmark tips for coping with smoke when it happens.
10. Connect with others about smoke. Talk to your family and community about your planning process and help others to think through their own preparations. The more we get ready for smoke before the wildfire season starts, the more resilient we will be when the smoke arrives.
It’s impossible to predict when and where extreme wildfire smoke will occur, but we know that our wildfire seasons are getting longer and more severe. We must head into every new wildfire season by preparing for the worst. It’s not optimistic and it’s not pessimistic — it’s just realistic based on trends over the past decades.
This story was first published here at theconversation and authored by Dr. Sarah Henderson and Dr. Mike Flannigan