Safety

Smoke poses a risk to hospitals as California wildfires continue

Hospital Safety Insider, October 12, 2017

Want to receive articles like this one in your inbox? Subscribe to Hospital Safety Insider!

Facilities in Northern California are bracing themselves for an influx of smoke-inhalation cases as lethal wildfires continue to ravage the countryside. Experts recommend that special attention should be paid to facility air filtration systems as a smoke advisory warning continues for the 7.4 million residents of the Bay Area.

Since they began, the fires have destroyed 3,500 structures, forced 20,000 residents to evacuate, and killed at least 24 people. Two hospitals in Northern California were forced to evacuate 200 patients this week as the fires approached them.

Hospitals and healthcare organizations in the area expect an increase smoke-related ailments, particularly in older or younger patients. Wildfire smoke is a mix of thousands of different types gases and particles, many of them toxic. Especially dangerous are the tiny bits of ash and soot, invisible to the eye, that can be inhaled by unsuspecting victims. These particles can cause breathing problems, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and even strokes. Within a few days of smoke exposure, damaged lungs can succumb to bronchitis or pneumonia. And in pregnant women, exposure to particulates has been associated with premature birth and low birth weight in infants.

"It's a concerning time for me as a physician," Robert Blount, MD, a pulmonologist at the University of California San Francisco who also conducts research on the impacts of air pollution on human health, told KQED news. "Typically, you're going to see an increase in outpatient visits, also ER visits."

Hospitals should advise patients living in the Bay Area to limit outdoor activities, and adjust air-conditioning units and car vent systems to recirculate air and prevent outside air from coming inside. In homes without air conditioning, people should keep doors and windows closed, which can reduce pollutant levels by 50%.


 



Want to receive articles like this one in your inbox? Subscribe to Hospital Safety Insider!

    Hospital Safety Center
  • Hospital Safety Center

    Improve compliance with hospital safety standards from The Joint Commission, OSHA, and other regulators with this...

  • Healthcare Life Safety Compliance

    Created exclusively for healthcare facility managers, plant operations professionals, and directors of engineering, this...

  • Hospital Safety Insider

    Stay on top of hospital safety requirements and best practices with our free, fast-paced weekly update.

  • Basic OSHA Compliance Manual Kit

    Total compliance has never been easier. This one convenient package contains everything you need to ensure your outpatient...

  • Basic Dental OSHA Compliance Manual Kit

    Total compliance has never been easier. This one convenient package contains everything you need to ensure your dental...

Most Popular