While here in Texas, we’ve been a little more concerned with the threats of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, some of our friends and neighbors in the western states have been dealing with trauma of a different nature due the the wildfires in the west.
Fire. Smoke. Ash.
While hurricanes and other water-based disasters do carry with them many dangers (toxic substances in the floodwaters, gale-force winds, and mold/mildew damage as the water recedes), wildfires like the West have been dealing with, for months now, have dangers all their own. We are not trying to compare scars, here; but with the increase of climate-change-effect weather patterns and disastrous acts-of-God across the nation, now may be a good time to discuss what kinds of precautions and actions our friends in out West are taking to stay safe with their fires.
Wildfires In The West Contaminating Air
The biggest concern with wildfires for people who are not in the direct path of the blaze is air quality deterioration. Because of the wind-borne smoke, ash, and other detritus on the air currents from the fire, homes and business miles away from the fire can still feel the effects of massive wildfires in the west.
Sadly, there are not many solutions to prevent some deterioration of air quality. There is no one foolproof solution that everyone can use.
There will still be smoke and ash clogging the air, and every time anyone opens the door to go outside for any reason, some of that contaminated air will invade your home or business.
The only counteraction that we can take is to adjust our air conditioning systems to help us remove the contaminants from our homes and businesses.
Ways To Make Adjustments
The way an air conditioner works is by circulating air from room to room in your home or business. This means that the air in your home is constantly recycled and cleaned by the filters built into your system. No air from the outside of your home comes in, except that which we let in when we have to open the doors.
This is actually a good thing.
It may seem counterintuitive, but in a situation where the outside air is full of smoke and particulates, having a batch of air in your home or business that is constantly recycled and barely touched by the outside polluted air is a good thing. The minimal amounts of smoke and pollution let in by opening the doors when entering or leaving does not truly harm your system. Your filters are designed to remove these contaminants, so keeping your home enclosed as much as possible is ideal.
Another adaptation you can make for the duration of the disaster is to turn your air conditioning system’s thermostat from “automatic” to “on”. By doing this, you can ensure that your filters are constantly doing the work you need them to do: removing the barest shreds of smoke and pollution from the air in your home or business 24 hours a day. If you get too cold, bundle up, or adjust the temperature, but keep the thing running.
Even if you are using a window-unit air conditioner, the system runs on a basis of recycling the air in your home, not bringing in outside air and trying to cool that. This means that as long as you seal the cracks around your window unit well, you can gain additional filtering power by utilizing your window units, too.
While here in Texas we are dealing with water-based disasters more than fire-based, it is still a good idea to familiarize yourself with the precautions for other forms of danger. We in this nation are seeing more and more “disasters” and states of emergency that ever before; we should all strive to be prepared, so that we can protect ourselves and our families when stuff starts to hit the fan.