August 6, 2021
If smoke is thick in your area, stay inside – especially if you have heart disease or respiratory illness. Infants, very young children and elderly residents are also advised to stay inside if smoke becomes thick. All residents should consider limiting heavy physical outdoor activity when moderate to heavy smoke is present and consider relocating temporarily if smoke is present indoors and is making you ill.
If visibility is less than five miles in smoke in your neighborhood, smoke has reached levels that are unhealthy.
The following tips are based on EPA guidelines and can vary based on your location relative to a fire, but they are generally among the most effective ways to improve indoor air quality in your home—and help protect your health—when outdoor air quality is poor due to wildfire smoke.
- Keep windows and doors closed
Try to keep the most obvious entry points to your home closed as much as possible. If you don’t have air conditioning, when your area is affected by wildfire smoke the EPA recommends using fans instead of opening windows—or seek relief from heat at a Salt Lake County Cool Zone.
- Limit use of a swamp cooler
Evaporative coolers bring air from outside to help cool the home; during a heat emergency, consider visiting a Cool Zone instead of using a swamp cooler, or limit its use as much as possible.
- Close the fresh air intake vent on window AC units
If your AC unit has a setting to recirculate air, use that option instead of outside “fresh” air. This also applies to central air systems: if there is a fresh air circulation option, try to turn this off temporarily.
- Avoid adding to the poor air quality by burning
Adding to the smoke by burning or cooking outside is ill-advised during wildfire events. Things like recreational fires or smoker grills can make the air worse for you and your neighbors.
- Consider buying an indoor air purifier
The EPA recommends using indoor air purifiers on the highest possible setting during fires. If you have a central air system with filtration, run the system’s fan on the highest possible setting; this moves the air particles around that have settled and helps get them out.
- Postpone house cleaning
Vacuuming can temporarily make your indoor air quality worse, by kicking up dust and small particles—unless your vacuum has HEPA filtration. So, consider postponing your house cleaning until the wildfire smoke passes (you’re welcome!).
- Avoid being too active
If there’s ever an excuse not to work-out strenuously—especially outdoors—it’s during a smoke event. Cardiovascular exercise increases the amount of air you take into your lungs, so consider having a rest day during significant wildfires.
- Use N95 masks
If air quality is visibly poor, use an N95 or KN95 mask when outdoors; with cases again surging, you’ll also help protect yourself from public COVID transmission.