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Staying Prepared & Healthy Amid Fire Warnings & Poor Air Quality

September 9, 2020   |   By Jacqui Monahan

Like much of Oregon, the Portland metro region has endured multiple days of intense fire warnings and poor air quality. GreenField Health patients have reached out to us for advice on what they should do.

Fire danger

First and foremost, everyone should take simple precautions not to start a fire. While it’s dry and windy, a spark can start a fire that quickly grows out of control. Don’t do any outdoor burning until the current red flag warning passes. Also don’t smoke outside or drive over dried vegetation.

Make sure you have some fire break between your home and surrounding bushes and trees. Watering yard vegetation also can help stop fire from spreading.

Make sure your phone is set up to receive emergency alerts. This can be done under Settings -> Notifications.

Most important, be familiar with the different evacuation levels. If one is announced for your home, you won’t want to waste time looking up what it means.

Level 1: “Be Ready”

Danger is nearby. Monitor the situation and gear up to leave if necessary. Check emergency websites for the latest information and develop a plan for quick departure if it becomes necessary. Make sure you include pets and livestock in your planning.

Level 2: “Be Set”

Be ready to go on a moment’s notice. Have all your gear and essential family valuables loaded for departure. This could be the only “final” notice some residents receive because there is no guarantee that emergency services will be able to notify everyone if the conditions get rapidly worse. Consider evacuating at Level 2 as a precaution.

Level 3: “Go”

Leave immediately! If you receive this notice you need to get out of the area immediately because the danger is imminent. If residents ignore this warning, emergency services may not be able to reach them. When you evacuate, post a note on your front door saying "This house is evacuated" or something similar. This will save first responders time when they are checking homes.

If you are preparing to leave and have time to grab things, focus on essentials. Bring food as well as three days’ worth of water for each person and pet. Also pack a first aid kit and any important documents. If you have more time you can focus on valuables and electronics.

If you are concerned about losing cell phone service, change your voicemail message to include your evacuation plan and where you are heading. This way family and friends can access that information even if you are without service or have a dead phone battery.

Smoke and air quality

Along with the ongoing fire risk, a great deal of smoke is causing unhealthy air quality throughout the region. Some of the smoke in the air is blowing in from fires hundreds of miles away. It can cause significant respiratory distress, especially for older people and people with preexisting respiratory conditions.

If you are not in immediate fire danger but are dealing with smoke and unhealthy air quality here are some precautions to take.

Avoid spending time outside.

This includes exercising and working outdoors. Check the current air quality online before going out. In general, if you can smell smoke, there is enough particulate matter in the air to irritate or harm your lungs.

Keep your windows closed.

This might be hard when daytime temperatures rise, but it is necessary to prevent your home from filling with smoke. If you have air conditioners or air purifiers, they can help.

Wear a respirator or tight-fitting mask outdoors.

If you absolutely must go outside, cover your mouth and nose as securely as possible. A respirator or tight-fitting mask can filter particulate matter.


GreenField Health is here for you. Stay safe Oregon!