Wildfires Close to Home: Tips for Staying Safe with Poor Air Quality

September 2, 2021

With wildfires burning near Ely and the surrounding communities, it’s essential to be aware of air quality ratings and what to do to protect yourself when the air quality is poor. As your partner in good health, Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital is here to help provide you with the knowledge you need to stay healthy.

While children, the elderly, and people with existing respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD are most at risk during bouts of poor air quality caused by wildfires, everyone should do what they can to avoid unnecessary exposure.

First, you need to know where to get reliable information on air quality. Quickly and easily check current air quality conditions posted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Additionally, the National Weather Service works to predict air quality 48 hours in advance to help people prepare for days with poor air quality and, as much as possible, plan outings on good air quality days. You can find these predictions during local news reports.

When you know the air quality will be poor, here are essential actions you can do to stay safe:

  • Stay indoors as much as possible 
  • Avoid exercise or rigorous physical activity outdoors
  • Close all windows
  • Create “safe spaces” in your home
    • For example, keep bedroom doors closed so that air that comes in while opening exterior doors is mostly kept out
  • Keep well hydrated
  • Monitor air quality alerts
  • Leave the affected area if possible
  • Keep indoor air as clean as possible 
    • Use air purifiers
    • Set air conditioning to recirculate mode, so it’s not drawing in outside air

If you are unable to access an air cleaner or purifier due to limited availability or high cost, the EPA has published a helpful article on DIY air cleaners using a box fan, including instructions on how to do so from Missoula Montana Public Health. This can provide an additional layer of protection from poor air quality caused by wildfires, when used in conjunction with other safety precautions.

Following these protocols can help avoid respiratory issues when air quality is compromised. However, we are here to help anyone who needs care. Our Emergency Department is open 24/7. We remain dedicated to providing quality and safe care, including adhering to stringent COVID-19 protocols, such as universal masking, visitor limitations, social distancing, and hand hygiene. Masking is especially important for respiratory issues that can lead to increased coughing and spreading of illnesses via airborne particles, so we ask that everyone bring a mask to any visits or upcoming appointments.