(Last Updated On: April 28, 2023)

Setting Up a Clean Air Safe Room in a Wildfire Area

During wildfire season, we receive many calls from people who are worried sick about the health risks of outdoor air, heavy-laden with fine particulate from smoke and ash. Even if you are a long way from a wildfire area, winds can carry the residue of the burning for miles. Using your air purifier will help clean the air in your home, but if the problem is acute, you may need to supplement the use of an air purifier with a “safe room.”

Babies and children are, of course, the first concern, as their respiratory systems may not be as well-developed as those of adults. This goes for the elderly, as well. If you clean daily by vacuuming and wiping surfaces to remove smoke dust and can still tell the air is heavy with particles, consider setting aside one room as your safe room. Children and family members who might have asthma, or those who are especially sensitive, should sleep in the safe room. Before placing an air purifier in the room, clean the room; then use duct tape, vinyl or plastic sheeting, and whatever else you need to seal up the room, including windows and vents. When the room is sealed, run your air purifier on high as much as possible.

The technology used in an air purifier is of particular importance in a safe room. We advise the use of a quality HEPA air purifier. Do not use an ozone generator. In this smaller, closed environment, you do not want to contribute to the problem by using a technology that can further stress the lungs.

A HEPA air purifier with activated carbon will remove the fine particulate as well as many of the chemicals that compose the smoke and ash. For some, the odors and chemicals associated with smoke and ash are as problematic as the particles. An air purifier can remove both. It is advisable to monitor the pre-filter during the early days of wildfire recovery. The pre-filter in an air purifier will catch the larger pieces of dust, and if changed or cleaned when needed, it will help the HEPA filter last longer. Under normal circumstances, the pre-filter will last many months, but removing airborne remnants of smoke and ash is a big job even for a quality air purifier.

There are many other strategies you can adopt to help get your home back in shape, including the use of commercial cleaning companies. Some companies use ozone-generating machines to clean, and if that is the case, do not be present when the cleaning is occurring and for a few days afterward. You can also run your air conditioning and install new filters in your central heat and air system to help cut down the dust. For the very fine particulate matter emergent from smoke and ash, you will benefit from the use of a quality HEPA air purifier. For specific guidance on the correct use of an air purifier in your safe room or to determine the best one for your needs, please feel free to contact us.