Emergency Preparedness | VA Health Care Orlando

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Forest fires affect everyone. They can spread quickly and harm us. Forest fires are becoming larger and more dangerous. More and more people live in areas at risk of wildfires, but we can take steps to prepare for them. Learn how to prepare your home and your community.

Protect yourself from smoke.

When wildfires create smoky conditions, it is important for everyone to reduce their exposure to smoke. Wildfire smoke irritates the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. This can make it difficult to breathe and cause you to cough or wheeze. Children, pregnant women, and people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or heart disease should be especially careful when breathing in smoke from a wildfire.

Keep the smoke out.

  • Choose a room that you can isolate from outside air.
  • Install a portable air purifier or indoor air filtration to keep the air in that room clean even when there is smoke in the rest of the building and outside. If you are using a DIY box fan filtration unit, never leave it unattended.

Reduce your exposure to smoke while wearing a respirator.

  • A respirator is a mask that fits tightly to your face to filter smoke before you breathe it in.
  • You need to wear the right respirator and wear it correctly. Respirators are not designed for children.
  • If you have heart or lung disease, ask your doctor if it’s safe for you to wear a respirator.
  • Avoid using candles, gas, propane, wood stoves, fireplaces or aerosols and do not fry or grill meat, smoke tobacco products or vacuum.
  • If you have a central air conditioning system, use high-efficiency filters to capture fine smoke particles. If your system has a fresh air intake, set the system to recirculation mode or close the outside air intake damper.

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

Follow the fires near you to be ready.

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

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

Learn more about wildfire smoke protection.

Evacuate safely.

Public authorities may ask you to evacuate or you may decide to evacuate. Learn how to evacuate safely and how to make a family disaster plan, including:

  • Find out what could happen to you
  • Development of an emergency plan
  • Complete the checklist
  • Practice your plan

Stay healthy during power outages.

Large fires can cause long-term power outages. Read what to do in the event of a power outage, including:

  • Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Food safety
  • Safe drinking water
  • Power Line Hazards
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