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Wildfire Smoke and COVID-19

Adapted from the CDC.

Unfortunately, wildfires are a common natural disaster we face in Orange County. This year we are confronted with the possibility of wildfires during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now is more important than ever to prepare your home and your family for a wildfire with the free ReadyOC app.

It’s also important to know how wildfire smoke can affect you and your loved ones. Wildfire smoke can irritate your lungs, cause inflammation, affect your immune system, and make you more prone to lung infections, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. By preparing, you can protect yourself and those around you.

Prepare for Wildfires

  • Prepare for the wildfires as you would any other year.
  • Give yourself more time than usual to prepare and stock up. (Tip: Home delivery is the safest choice for buying disaster supplies during COVID-19)
  • Talk with a healthcare provider. Plan how you will protect yourself against wildfire smoke.
  • Stock up on prescription medicines taken routinely in your home. (Tip: Store a 7-10 day-supply in a waterproof, childproof container)
  • Consider developing a family disaster plan when planning for potential evacuation.

Know the Difference Between Symptoms from Smoke Exposure and COVID-19

  • Some symptoms, like dry cough, sore throat, and difficulty breathing can be caused by both wildfire smoke exposure and COVID-19.
  • Symptoms like fever or chills, muscle or body aches, and diarrhea are not related to smoke exposure. If you have any of these symptoms, contact a healthcare provider.
  • If you have severe symptoms, like difficulty breathing or chest pain, immediately call 911 or go to the nearest emergency facility.

Know What to Do if You Must Evacuate

  • Register your family with AlertOC to receive emergency alerts about your home, office, school, and other locations you care about—even if you aren’t currently there.
  • Pay attention to local guidance about updated plans for evacuations and shelters. Be sure to identify pet shelters and pet-friendly hotels on your evacuation route.
  • When you check on neighbors and friends before evacuating, be sure to follow the social distancing recommendations of staying at least 6 feet from others
  • If you need to go to a disaster shelter, follow health guidelines for staying safe and healthy in the shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Take Actions to Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke

  • The best way to protect against the potentially harmful effects of wildfire smoke is to reduce your smoke exposure by seeking cleaner air shelters and spaces. Keep in mind that while social distancing guidelines are in place, finding cleaner air might be harder as public facilities may be closed or have limited capacity.
  • Limit your outdoor exercise when it is smoky outside or choose lower-intensity activities to reduce your smoke exposure.

Note that cloth masks will not protect you from wildfire smoke.
Cloth masks that are used to slow the spread of COVID-19 by blocking respiratory droplets offer little protection against wildfire smoke. They do not catch small, harmful particles in smoke that can harm your health. Although N95 respirators do provide protection from wildfire smoke, they might be in short supply as frontline healthcare workers use them during the pandemic.

Protect your loved ones by making a Promise to Prepare today and follow ReadyOC on social media for more seasonal tips.