Today: Saturday, August 18, 2018, 6:48 pm (PST)

Health and safety during wildfires

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VICTORIA – Air quality in British Columbia continues to fluctuate, and smoky-sky bulletins have been issued due to wildfire activity.

The wildfire risk throughout the province remains a concern. A number of evacuation orders and alerts are in place. British Columbians are urged to exercise caution and remain vigilant to help prevent human-caused wildfires.

Health and Wellness

Poor air quality can be harmful to health, especially for infants, young children, the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease or diabetes. The best way to protect yourself from the effects of wildfire smoke is to reduce exposure to it.

Here are some additional tips for breathing easier during a smoky-sky bulletin.

* Reduce the amount of time spent outdoors, stay hydrated and avoid rigorous outdoor activities.

* When indoors, keep the air clean (windows/doors closed, no smoking, no burning fireplaces/candles/incense, no vacuuming).

* Consider purchasing a commercially available HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter and creating a clean-air shelter in one room of your home.

* In a vehicle, keep windows closed with air conditioning set to recirculate.

* Visit places with air conditioning, such as shopping malls, community centres, swimming pools, public libraries, etc., as they often have cleaner, cooler air than smaller buildings or the outdoors.

* People with asthma or other chronic illness should activate their personal care plans, and ensure they have an adequate supply of life-saving medication with them at all times.

* Visit HealthLink BC, call 811 (non-emergency), see a health-care professional, or call 911 (emergency) if you are experiencing symptoms, including difficulty breathing and cardiovascular distress.

* Pay attention to local air-quality reports and the nearby conditions because smoke levels can change over short periods and over small distances. Check the Air Quality Health Index for your area: http://ow.ly/1B4S30lltRS

Self-evacuation

Self-evacuation is not recommended. Staying where you are, or sheltering-in-place, is usually a more reliable way of reducing exposure to wildfire smoke when you have access to a clean indoor air environment. Smoky conditions can change quickly, so relocating to another community may not reduce smoke exposure, and may cause unnecessary stress and anxiety.

Seek medical attention if you feel your condition is worsening due to smoke exposure.

If you have mobility concerns, please check with family, friends or neighbours who may be able to assist should an evacuation order be put in place. Connect with your local government to make them aware of mobility issues that might hinder a quick evacuation.

Know Before You Go: DriveBC

Provincial transportation routes will be busy, and drivers can expect possible delays or closures due to wildfire activity. Please plan travel in advance, pack food and bottled water for yourselves as well as your pets. Allow plenty of extra time, and drive safely.

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