Author Archive: jickcoem

Air quality expected to stay unhealthy through the week

Smoke from wildfires will continue to plague King County with unhealthy air quality. While the forecast has smoke staying through the week, air quality may change frequently throughout the day, and may be different from location to location. Check airnow.gov for updates. Residents are encouraged to take precautions as levels will stay around “unhealthy for sensitive groups” to “unhealthy” for everyone. Please check back for more updates.

Protect your health when air is smoky

Check the air quality forecast. Air quality conditions may change quickly. Go to Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s website at pscleanair.org or follow them on Twitter (@pscleanair) for the current smoke level report for King County. Stay indoors when possible. Limit your physical activity outdoors (including running, biking, physical labor, and sports) when:

  • the smoke level is “moderate” or worse if you have a health condition (like asthma, heart disease, diabetes, or a cold)
  • the smoke level is “unhealthy for sensitive groups” or worse if you are pregnant, over age 65, a child or an infant
  • the smoke level is “unhealthy for everyone.”

Keep indoor air clean. Close windows and doors. Don’t smoke, use candles, or vacuum. Use an air cleaner with a HEPA filter if possible. Use fans or an air conditioner (AC) when it’s hot, if possible. Set your AC to recirculate, rather than bringing in fresh air. If you aren’t able to leave and it’s too hot, it’s better to open the windows for a short time to cool the indoor space than to overheat. If you do use AC, be sure to check and clean or change the filter regularly. If your health conditions get worse around smoke, contact your health care provider. Call 9-1-1 if you or someone else has serious symptoms, like trouble breathing.

Check on others. Check on elderly or at-risk neighbors. Make sure they have what they need. Offer them a place with cleaner indoor air if available. Public Health – Seattle & King County has additional information and tips about dealing with wildfire smoke.

Tips for pets

Animals also face challenges during the wildfire smoke season. Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC) provides information for people to help their pets in emergencies, including summer heat and wildfires. As with humans, try to limit your pet’s outdoor activity when weather conditions are at their worst. Always make sure pets have plenty of cool water and shade available, and never leave a pet in a hot car. Check heat safety tips for pets for information. If you need to evacuate due to smoke or wildfire, have a plan to take your pet with you.

For more information visit, www.kingcounty.gov/wildfiresmoke

Residents urged to be vigilant as brush fires sweep across Western Washington

Warm weather, low humidity, and strong winds have caused brush fires to spread across the region causing some communities to evacuate. While there are currently no fires of concern in King County, the King County Fire Marshal has issued a Stage 2 burn ban, which prohibits all outdoor recreational fires.

Brush fires can cause air quality to drop, which can be harmful especially to children, adults over 65 years of age, people with underlying health conditions, women who are pregnant, and babies. Protect yourself by following guidance of local health departments and staying inside as much as possible. To get a current reading of air quality near you, visit the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s air quality map.

Residents are urged to take precautions and refrain from activities that may increase the chances of creating a brush fire.

Home Fire Safety

  • Clear long grass, weeds, or anything that can burn away from structures.
  • Remove any pine needles, leaves, and debris from your gutters.
  • Move trash cans away from your home.
  • Avoid mowing your yard when it is dry or windy. Lawn mowers can create sparks.
  • Keep your yard green and watered, if possible.
  • Throw away smoking materials in proper receptacles and douse them with water.
  • Follow all evacuation directions from first responders.
  • Get more tips for maintaining a wildfire safety zone around your home.

Car Fire Safety

  • Check your tire pressure before driving. Exposed rims can create and throw sparks.
  • Ensure no metal objects, such as chains, are dragging from your car.
  • Never toss items like cigarettes out your window.

For more information and up-to-date information follow @KingCountyWA on Twitter and Facebook.

Smoke from Eastern Washington wildfires moves into King County

Winds have brought smoke from east of the Cascades into parts of King County. The National Weather Service and Puget Sound Clean Air Agency expect the smoke to stick around through the middle of the week.

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is monitoring the air quality of the region. You can view air quality around your home here.

Follow the guidance put out by Public Health Seattle – King County on how to respond to wildfire smoke, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Residents of King County are encouraged to sign-up for ALERT King County to get timely information on emergency situations. For information specific to air quality, sign-up for Puget Sound Clean Air Agency alerts.

For more information and guidance, visit www.kingcounty.gov/prepare and follow King County on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram .

Keep your cool this summer

Graphic courtesy National Weather Service – Seattle.

Summer is here! Forecasts call for a gradual warming, with temperatures on Sunday, Aug. 16 reaching 90 in the Seattle area and even the mid- to upper 90s inland. This is likely to bring high risk for much of the population, especially those who are heat sensitive and those without effective cooling and/or adequate hydration.

Things are different this year with COVID-19. Going to a movie theater, a mall, or the library to cool off after work isn’t possible for most of us in King County in this phase of the state’s Safe Start reopening plan. Remember to let safety be your guide. Due to the extremely dry conditions, King County Fire Marshal has issued a burn ban for unincorporated areas in King County.

Tips from Public Health – Seattle & King County specific to COVID and heat:

  • COVID risk adds an additional concern during hot weather. Unlike the flu, hot weather does not decrease the transmission of COVID-19.
  • Cities will not be able to set up cooling centers this summer with the increase in COVID-19 spread.
  • Many swimming beaches may be closed or lifeguards may not be present. Never swim alone, use lifejackets in or near rivers and lakes, and heed Public Health warnings about crowded parks. Get more information about safe swimming in COVID times.
  • Wearing a mask is a key measure to prevent the spread of COVID; in hot weather, wearing a mask can also contribute to overheating. Avoid spending time in hot indoor and outdoor locations where you would have to wear a mask. Take a safely distanced “mask break” if you are getting too hot and uncomfortable:
    • Go outside and make sure you are distanced from others by at least six feet.
    • Remove your mask to breathe and cool down.
    • Put the mask back on before returning to the venue or activity where the mask is required.

For everyone when days are hot:

  • Keep window blinds or curtains closed when outdoor temperatures skyrocket. This reduces indoor temps and reduces the strain on cooling equipment, if in use.
  • Keep windows and doors closed in locations with air conditioning.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (but avoid alcohol, caffeine, or lots of sugar that can make you lose body fluid).
  • Dress in layers to manage varying temperatures.
  • Minimize extended time outside.
  • Turn off unnecessary lights and unplug unused electrical equipment.
  • Take a tepid shower or bath to cool down.
  • Avoid hot and heavy meals that can raise your body temperature.
  • Check on vulnerable family or neighbors by phone or text to make sure they are safe and cool.
  • NEVER leave pets or children in a hot car. Call 9-1-1 if you see a child or pet in a hot car.
  • Learn the warning signs of heat illness that happens when the body can’t cool down. If someone has heat stroke, they need to call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room immediately.

If you must be outside:

  • The most important thing to do is to drink lots of water. When it’s really hot, drink up to a quart of water every hour with moderate to heavy physical activity.
  • Carry a water bottle.
  • Consider sports drinks for electrolyte replacement when sweating a lot.
  • Wear loose, light clothing with materials designed to wick sweat.
  • Wear a hat with a brim.
  • Check with your supervisor about adjusting your work hours to start earlier, when it’s cooler.
  • Stop all activity if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, faint or have a pounding heart or trouble breathing.
  • Hot, sunny weather invariably brings more people to King County’s parks and trails, which are open consistent with the state’s Phase Two guidelines. More information about what is open can be found on Parks’ COVID-19 response page.
  • Park and trail visitors can report crowding, areas that need attention, or other issues using Parks’ reporting tool, SeeClickFix.

Helping meet the need for supplies during pandemic

The Emergency Operations Center is helping address the scarcity of personal protective equipment during the pandemic. Learn more in this short video.

Did you know there are more than 1,400 long term care facilities in King County? These include skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes), adult family homes, and assisted living and supported living facilities that provide care for older adults and people with disabilities who need help with activities of daily living.

“People who live in long term care facilities are at high risk for COVID-19. Many are over age 60 or have underlying health conditions. They are often sharing a bedroom or bathroom and it is challenging to follow social distancing protocols,” said Ingrid Ulrey, COVID-19- Chief, LTCF Response, and Policy Director, Public Health – Seattle & King County.

A skilled nursing facility in Kirkland was “ground zero” for the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak. Along with hospitals, fire departments and other first responders, long term care facilities were hit hard when COVID-19 began in our region. Due to the massive demand and lack of supply, they were unable to get needed personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and gowns, and other supplies like disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer.

King County activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on Feb. 28 and sprang into action. One of its key roles in the pandemic is to support Public Health – Seattle & King County by coordinating resource management. The EOC is taking aim at supply scarcity on behalf of jurisdictions and agencies around the region. The EOC compiles requests, submits orders to the state, and receives and re-distributes critical supplies. The team also maximizes the county’s buying power to fill in the gaps.

“We’re buying hundreds of thousands of masks, gloves, gowns, face shields, goggles, and other eye protection. We’re getting hundreds of gallons of hand sanitizer,” said Derrick Hiebert, Emergency Management Program Coordinator at King County Office of Emergency Management.

A team of employees from Emergency Management, Public Health, and other county departments, as well as volunteers from Team Rubicon, an international disaster response nonprofit, became a supply-ordering machine. The Facilities Management Division of the Department of Executive Services also plays an important role in the receiving and temporary storage of goods until they can be shipped out.

“The goal is to be able to meet everyone’s needs,” said Sophia Lopez, Emergency Management Program Manager at King County Office of Emergency Management (OEM).

Initially supplies had to be prioritized due to limited quantities. The state identified a hierarchy of “tiers” based on those treating or transporting COVID-19 positive patients, as well as the type of organization.

With state direction, the team at the EOC first focused on meeting needs by “Tier 1” organizations, such as long-term care facilities, emergency medical services (EMS) and hospitals. Once those needs were met, which happened just recently, the team was able to move to Tier 2, which includes group settings such as isolation facilities, homeless shelters, and behavioral health residential facilities. The goal is to soon be able to meet the needs in Tier 3 which includes group living facilities without known COVID patients, home hospice, home care without known COVID patients, opioid treatment programs, funeral homes, childcare centers and quarantine facilities.

“We’re also moving toward setting folks up to order certain items for themselves as supply opens back up,” Lopez added.

“I’m very proud of the work we’re doing in the EOC, especially the Logistics Section,” said Brendan McCluskey, OEM director. “We’re making a difference and helping save lives.”

Learn more in this short video.