September 28, 2022
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Emergency Preparedness | VA Caribbean Health Care

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Wildfires affect everyone. They can spread fast and harm us. Wildfires are getting bigger and more dangerous. More people are living in areas at risk for wildfires, but we can take action to prepare. Learn how to prepare your household and community.

Protect yourself from smoke.

When wildfires create smoky conditions it’s important for everyone to reduce their exposure to smoke. Wildfire smoke irritates your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. It can make it hard to breathe and make you cough or wheeze.  Children, pregnant women, and people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or heart disease, need to be especially careful about breathing wildfire smoke.

Keep smoke outside.

  • Choose a room you can close off from outside air.
  • Set up a portable air cleaner or indoor air filtration to keep the air in this room clean even when it’s smoky in the rest of the building and outdoors. If you use a do-it-yourself box fan filtration unit, never leave it unattended.

Reduce your smoke exposure by wearing a respirator.

  • A respirator is a mask that fits tightly to your face to filter out smoke before you breathe it in.
  • You must wear the right respirator and wear it correctly. Respirators are not made to fit children.
  • If you have heart or lung disease ask your doctor if it is safe for you to wear a respirator.
  • Avoid using candles, gas, propane, wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, or aerosol sprays and don’t fry or broil meat, smoke tobacco products, or vacuum.
  • If you have a central air conditioning system, use high efficiency filters to capture fine particles from smoke. If your system has a fresh air intake, set the system to recirculate mode or close the outdoor intake damper.

Pets and other animals can be affected by wildfire smoke too.

Keep track of fires near you so you can be ready.

  • AirNow’s “Fires: Current Conditions” page has a map of fires throughout North America.
  • NOAA’s “Fire weather outlook” page maps fire watches and warnings.
  • Listen to the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for emergency alerts.

Pay attention to any health symptoms if you have asthma, COPD, heart disease, or are pregnant. Get medical help if you need it.

Learn more about protecting yourself from wildfire smoke.

Evacuate safely.

You may be asked by public authorities to evacuate or you may decide to evacuate. Read about how to evacuate safely and how to develop a family disaster plan, including:

  • Finding out what could happen to you
  • Making a disaster plan
  • Completing the checklist
  • Practicing your plan

Stay healthy during power outages.

Large fires can cause long-term power outages. Read about what to do if your power goes out, including:

  • Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Food safety
  • Safe drinking water
  • Power line hazards



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