As several wildfires burn in Northern California, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, and New Mexico, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a bulletin on June 27, 2018 on how to protect yourself from the public health impacts from wildfire smoke.
Wildfire smoke can burn eyes, irritate respiratory systems, and is particularly problematic for those who have chronic heart and lung conditions. Pregnant women and infants are also vulnerable to the impacts of wildfire smoke. CDC recommends monitoring local air quality reports via the US Air Quality Index and staying indoors with the air conditioner running, if possible. Common masks sold in hardware stores do not protect against wildfire smoke. For additional information on the health impacts of wildfires and resources, read this article with guest authors from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). You can also read more about the health impacts of wildfire smoke from CDC here.
Wildfire Resources for Local Public Health:
- Wildfire Smoke: A Guide for Public Health Officials: This guide outlines whose health is most affected by wildfire smoke, how to reduce exposure to smoke, what public health actions are recommended, and how to communicate air quality to the public. (EPA)
- Smoke Ready Toolbox for Wildfires: A suite of tools that can help health departments develop risk communications strategies aimed at improving public health outcomes in the event of smoke exposure. (EPA)
- Wildfire Safety Social Media Toolkit: This online resource has safety and preparedness messages that local health departments can customize and share on their social media channels. (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Wildfire Response Orientation is an awareness-level health and safety resource for wildfire responders.
- Risk Communication Toolkit for Local Health Agencies: This toolkit includes guidance for speaking with the media during and following emergencies. (New Jersey Department of Health)
- Psychological First Aid: A self-paced, online training course for supervisors and leaders on building workforce resilience through psychological first aid. (NACCHO)
This article contains additional information and resources for wildfire preparedness, response, and recovery.
NACCHO events related to wildfires:
- NACCHO Webinar: Western Wildfires – Keeping Communities from Polluted Air: On May 21 from NACCHO, local health departments, and the EPA conducted a webinar on the role that local health departments play in preparing for and responding to wildfires and the health impacts of wildfire smoke. Recording and slides from the webinare are available on NACCHO’s Climate Change website.
- NACCHO Annual 2018: EPA will be presenting on wildfire smoke at NACCHO’s annual conference this July. Register for the conference here.