The effect that wildfires have on air quality can prove to be hazardous to your citizens in more ways than one. As the fires rage and the smoke spreads, more and more people are exposed to air contamination dangers. Not surprisingly, breathing in the contaminates of smoke can cause respiratory issues in sensitive populations, including symptoms such as elevated heart rate, asthma flares, and a lowered immune system. Such risks are even more serious during the pandemic, making people more susceptible to viruses like COVID-19. Checking your community’s current Air Quality Index here and making sure to disseminate that information to your citizens in an effective and timely way will help to mitigate those dangers.
Communicating air quality with the public requires a multi-pronged approach. Ensure that you reach as many people as possible, where they are, at any point in the day. Air quality during and after a wildfire affects more than just those closest to the disaster. It spans multiple states, creating complications for many communities and their citizens along the way.
As wildfires and smoke continue to develop and affect communities adversely, here are some best practices to effectively and quickly communicate with your citizens about air quality conditions and how to stay safe:
Utilize your Community Engagement Platform
Regularly update your community website as the air quality changes. Using this massive platform gives your citizens a place to go when they are looking for crucial information. It is imperative to have maps and links readily available so that citizens can check their area as needed and learn how to respond. This tool could look like a page dedicated to answering FAQs or a banner on safety tips that is easily recognizable.
Utilize Social Media
Approximately two-thirds of Americans get news on social media. Having quick access to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts will reduce the time it takes to communicate crucial information. Social media can also be used to give immediate updates and links to more health and safety guidelines.
Utilize an Emergency Mass Notification System
This solution gives the emergency management team the ability to impact the safety of your community immediately. Send mass alerts to those in high-risk areas as the fires move and evacuations become real possibilities. Having a system that uses the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) will help ensure you reach those traveling in your area and citizens who have not yet signed up for your emergency notifications. A system like CivicReady that offers multilingual messaging and IPAWS integration can help you maximize your outreach when time is of the essence in an evacuation. With an advanced mass notification solution that enables anytime, anywhere, from any device administrative access, rapid communications will be your last concern in times of emergency.
News Outlets and Public Service Announcements (PSAs)
Sharing updates with the media about fire containment progress and evacuations make it possible for local media to assist in spreading the word, especially for those citizens who may be listening to the radio or checking their local papers for daily updates. Utilizing local media is imperative and useful in reaching those citizens who are not signed up for emergency notifications and do not have access to social media.
Using multiple forms of communication allows you to reach the largest possible number of people in your community. Ensuring your citizens know the dangers of unhealthy air quality will allow them to act accordingly with the health and safety guidelines you have provided. Having resources readily available creates transparency and promotes engagement during crises when your citizens need you the most.