What should we all be doing during the West Coast wildfire evacuations?

Amid the ongoing pandemic, people have been quarantined in their homes in order to slow the spread of coronavirus. Now that blazing fires have dominated the west coast, where can people go when being evacuated in the midst of a global outbreak? 

Currently, The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management is only in the beginning stages of updating its comprehensive evacuation plan. The federal government requires cities to have emergency response plans in place in order to be prepared for disasters. A concern among the PBEM staff is being able to reach community members who have additional needs, or speak a language other than English. 

At the moment, Multnomah County is only under Level 1 orders, which means residents should be prepared for possible evacuation if flames from the Riverside fire reach any further. It is recommended to keep a basic disaster supplies kit nearby. Some things to include in it would be face coverings, water, non-perishable food, batteries, first aid kit, etc.

It is important to note during a time where we are focused on public health and safety that smoke can cause serious problems now or later, as it can get caught deep in your lungs and flow into your bloodstream. Some common symptoms during smoke events include irritated eyes, a cough, headaches, sleepiness, or slight shortness of breath. You should call your doctor or 911 if you have trouble breathing and/or are experiencing chest pain. If you have respiratory disease, heart disease, you are over 64, or you smoke cigarettes, you are at higher risk for severe complications. Make sure you are reducing your time outside to a minimum and staying indoors.

In addition to limiting time outside, it is important to reduce smoke indoors as much as possible. If you are fortunate enough to have AC, set it to re-circulate. If that is too expensive, buy an air filter or build your own with a HEPA filter inside a box fan. You can also turn the AC on recirculate mode in your car if you have one. Keep all windows and doors closed. Also, do not burn candles, use gas stoves, smoke tobacco products, vacuum, or fry food. Be sure to reduce activities that make you breathe heavily, and try to exercise indoors.

Our team at SWeekly would like to acknowledge that natural disasters can take a serious toll on one’s mental health, just like a pandemic. Many feel sad, depressed, anxious, hopeless, and irritable. It is completely normal to feel weird during these times. We recommend that you reach out to friends and family, practice a hobby, seek professional help or a support group, meditate, or listen to your favorite music. Remember that we are all in this together.

-Carmen Ya’ira
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EVACUEE HOUSING: If you are in need of housing, or have room you can offer,
please visit https://tinyurl.com/EVACUEEHOUSING

Photo Credit: https://www.frontlinewildfire.com/some-evacuation-weary-californians-refuse-to-budge/

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