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Smoke from Wildfires Impacting Air Quality

 

As smoke from wildfires is affecting some areas in King County today and tomorrow, King County Emergency Management and Public Health – Seattle & King County shared the following tips and resources.  While the forecast has smoke decreasing later this week, air quality may change frequently throughout the day, and may be different from location to location. Check airnow.gov and Puget Sound Clean Air Agency for updates. Residents are encouraged to take precautions as levels are expected to stay around “unhealthy for sensitive groups” to “unhealthy” for everyone.

 

Additionally, please know that our schools will be monitoring local conditions, and will follow Department of Health’s guidance for school activities, for determining if or when to limit outdoor activities.  If changes in student activities are warranted, our schools will notify families.

Tips to protect your health when air is smoky

Check the air quality forecast. Air quality conditions may change quickly. Go to Puget Sound Clean Air Agency's website at pscleanair.org or follow them on Twitter (@pscleanair) for the current smoke level report for King County. Stay indoors when possible. Limit your physical activity outdoors (including running, biking, physical labor, and sports) when:

  • the smoke level is "moderate" or worse if you have a health condition (like asthma, heart disease, diabetes, or a cold);
  • the smoke level is "unhealthy for sensitive groups" or worse if you are pregnant, over age 65, a child or an infant;
  • the smoke level is "unhealthy for everyone."

Keep indoor air clean. Close windows and doors. Don't smoke, use candles, or vacuum. Use an air cleaner with a HEPA filter if possible. Use fans or an air conditioner (AC) when it's hot, if possible. Set your AC to recirculate, rather than bringing in outside air. If you aren't able to leave and it's too hot, it's better to open the windows for a short time to cool the indoor space than to overheat. If you do use AC, be sure to check and clean or change the filter regularly. If your health conditions get worse around smoke, contact your health care provider. Call 9-1-1 if you or someone else has serious symptoms, like trouble breathing. Get more information on how to prepare for wildfire smoke.

 

Find clean air spaces. If you are unable to get a HEPA air cleaner or make a DIY box fan filter in your home, watch the forecast for opportunities when fresher air may be available (e.g., when winds temporarily shift during the day) to cool and air out your home.

 

If you can’t make a clean air space in your home, plan where you might be able to go to get a break from the smoke (e.g., movie theaters, community centers, coffee shops, etc.). During the pandemic, many places including restaurants have invested in indoor air filtration units. Many of the systems reduce the risk of COVID-19 and are also effective at filtering wildfire smoke. Call locations to find out if they have installed air filtration units.

 

Check on others. Check on elderly or at-risk neighbors. Make sure they have what they need. Offer them a place with cleaner indoor air if available. Public Health - Seattle & King County has additional information and tips about dealing with wildfire smoke.

Tips for pets

Animals also face challenges during the wildfire smoke season. Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC) provides information for people to help their pets in emergencies, including summer heat and wildfires. As with humans, try to limit your pet's outdoor activity when weather conditions are at their worst. Always make sure pets have plenty of cool water and shade available, and never leave a pet in a hot car. Check heat safety tips for pets for information. If you need to evacuate due to smoke or wildfire, have a plan to take your pet with you.

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