Wildfire Resources for Local Health Departments

Over 40 wildfires threaten the public’s safety and health across California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and throughout the western United States. At least 15 people have died in California as a result of the fires in Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino counties. Wildfire smoke also poses a health risk to communities who are not directly impacted by the fires, and is particularly serious for children, older adults, pregnant women, individuals with heart or lung disease, and asthma. Local health departments in these areas are supporting responses to the fires by conducting air quality and environmental assessments, setting up and staffing evacuation centers and shelters, and sharing information with the public about how to protect themselves from the health impacts of wildfire smoke. The following resources are available from the Environmental Protection Agency to support local health departments’ wildfire response and recovery efforts:

  1. Wildfire Smoke: A Guide for Public Health Officials: This document is designed to help local public health officials prepare for smoke events, to take measures to protect the public when smoke is present, and communicate with the public about wildfire smoke and health. It is available at: https://www3.epa.gov/airnow/wildfire_may2016.pdf
  2. Particle Pollution and Your Patient’s Health: This course is designed for family medicine physicians, internists, pediatricians, occupational and rehabilitation physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, asthma educators, pulmonary specialists, cardiologists, and other medical professionals. Local health departments can share this with their healthcare partners. It is available at: https://www.epa.gov/particle-pollution-and-your-patients-health
  3. Heart Disease, Stroke, and Outdoor Air Pollution: This two page fact sheet, available on AirNow.gov, provides guidance to people with heart and/or lung disease or who are at high risk from lung disease to limit exposure to air particle pollution including smoke. Local health departments can use this to share information with vulnerable populations in their communities. It is available at: https://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=pubs.heartdisease

Visit FEMA and CDC’s Wildfire websites for more information. Contact NACCHO’s Preparedness Team at Preparedness@naccho.org for questions or more information.

About Katie Dwyer

Katie Schemm Dwyer is a Director in NACCHO's Preparedness Division. Her work focuses on supporting local health departments strengthen public health preparedness systems through governance, coordination and liaison with federal preparedness organizations, policy, and program management.

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