Smoke warnings don’t arrive soon enough

A new study report from the University of Oregon suggests that public warnings on wildfire smoke air quality often aren’t issued till after smoke has already swept into the area. The report details recommendations on better communications by public institutions about wildfire smoke and health risks — so that local residents have more time to prepare. More than half of wildfire-related tweets by 32 institutional accounts in 2022 were posted at peak levels of smoke when exposure risk was highest.

“On the one side, these institutions are doing a great job of highlighting the risks when the risks are present,” said Catherine Slavik, a postdoctoral researcher at the U of O Center for Science Communication Research. She said she hopes more of these conversations will occur before it’s too late for affected residents to prepare.

smoke alerts by location

KEZI reported that of 1287 analyzed tweets, only one in seven instructed and encouraged preparation such as wearing respirators, staying indoors, or using air purifiers. Only 213 of all the tweets used AQI labels to report on the smoky air and only 64 described risks with numeric data — such as percentage likelihood of a fire spreading or the number of acres burning.

Recommendations for smoke communications include expressing hazard severity, risk, likelihood, and mitigation, including numeric information and AQI levels when describing risks, practicing community engagement, and discussing risks outside of the fire season.

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3 thoughts on “Smoke warnings don’t arrive soon enough”

  1. Yes, it’s been ignored but the real question is “how do you want your smoke?” Clearly we’re not able to eliminate it with suppression, so prescribed fire and other intentional fire are our only options to improve the distributions of it throughout the year. We’d better start accepting smoke as a common reality.

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  2. The obvious adverse health impacts of fire smoke have long been ignored. Smoke is bad, no matter if it is from “prescribed burning”, agricultural burning, coal burning or tobacco. There is no safe level of smoke. The new euphemism for smog/ smoke is haze. That sounds so deceptively innocuous.

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    1. Smoke is bad?
      No shit?

      And why do you type “prescribed burning” in quotation marks? You think it’s not prescribed or not burning or what?

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