From 2009 to 2019, there have been an average of 64,100 wildfires annually, burning an average of 6.8 million acres each year, according to data from the
National Interagency Fire Center. This year, wildfires present a tougher challenge to emergency managers and shelter operators, because shelters need to protect people from both wildfires and the spread of COVID-19.
Communities can – and often do – face multiple, complex disasters and emergencies at the same time. Experienced emergency responders, especially those in the western and southwestern parts of the US, have faced wildfires in the past, and many emergency managers have worked to help their communities combat COVID-19. Today’s emergency managers and shelter providers must be ready to provide a safe and healthy environment for evacuees that protects them from both threats.
Cleaner air shelters are an important resource during wildfire season. They create a safe space for individuals who do not have
adequately clean air in their homes. Facilities used for cleaner air shelters often include school gymnasiums and civic auditoriums. However, putting individuals and groups together in cleaner air shelters can create an environment for the transmission of COVID-19 among evacuees, staff, and volunteers using the facilities.
Facility planners and emergency responders can take several steps to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in cleaner air shelters. CDC’s
COVID-19 Considerations for Cleaner Air Shelters and Cleaner Air Spaces to Protect the Public from Wildfire Smoke can help prepare shelter operators to do this. Here are six things you can do at your emergency shelter to help protect evacuees, staff, and volunteers:
To learn more about operating a safe emergency shelter in the event that your community faces a wildfire this year, check out these resources from
National Center for Environmental Health plans, directs, and coordinates a program to protect the American people from environmental hazards, including wildfire smoke. To learn more about wildfire smoke and its potential health effects, including the intersection of wildfire smoke and COVID-19, visit
Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke.
Division of Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) is actively tracking wildfires and other emerging issues at the intersection of disaster health and critical infrastructure protection. To receive information on the latest resources and tools to optimize your organization’s ability to respond, recover, and prepare for threats and incidents impacting the nation’s health critical infrastructure, subscribe to the ASPR CIP mailing list.