Wildfires, AIHA, and You
You may have seen wildfires on the news and wondered, “What can I do? How can I help?” AIHA is by your side. A few years ago, we created the Think and Act Fire Smart campaign to bring attention to wildfires and OEHS. Initially focused on wildfire cleanup, we’ve since expanded our efforts to include all aspects of wildfire preparedness, response, and recovery.
The terrible truth is that wildfires have a reach extending far beyond the initial burn zone. Combustion particles can travel hundreds of miles, affecting the air quality of distant communities. This means that the hazards created by wildfires may impact many workers, including career firefighters, emergency response personnel, police, farmworkers, public works and construction workers, disaster volunteers, business owners, managers, and workers returning to a work zone after an evacuation order or after a fire has consumed all or part of the building where they work.
In addition to the Think and Act Fire Smart campaign, AIHA has published technical guides and on-demand conference sessions, which are available on the AIHA Marketplace (search for the keyword “wildfire”). We’ve also hosted a webinar and issued a related guidance document (PDF) on protecting disaster volunteers during the COVID-19 pandemic, both of which were jointly produced by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Worker Training Program. Additional resources can be found on the AIHA website.
AIHA has also established relationships with disaster response organizations, advocated for funding for disaster preparedness and response agencies and programs, and encouraged our local sections to establish their own relationships with state and local disaster entities and nonprofits. The goals are to expand awareness of how OEHS professionals can use their expertise to protect people and their communities, open doors to new relationships, and expand the knowledge of OEHS professionals on disaster preparedness and response.
Recently, President Joe Biden met with western governors for a nationally broadcast event on wildfire preparedness during which he linked the changing climate, wildfires, and record heat. Wildfires, like heat stress, are not something we can leave to others to address. Through AIHA, each of us has a role to play to protect workers and their communities. If you’d like to get more involved in AIHA’s disaster preparedness, response, and recovery efforts, please email me, and consider joining our Government Relations Committee or Incident Preparedness and Response Working Group.