How Senior Care Communities Can Protect Residents Against Wildfire Smoke

Every summer and fall, wildfires stretch across the western United States and Canada, sending carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and particulate matter into the air. In 2023, more than one-third of the United States population, all the way to the East Coast, was under wildfire smoke air quality alerts, according to CNN. And it’s a growing problem.

The inhalation of wildfire smoke poses a serious health risk to residents in senior care communities, exacerbating respiratory conditions and highlighting the need for preventative measures.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that since the 1970s, wildfire seasons in the western states have grown from five months to over seven months long. From 1973 to 1982, the average burn time of individual fires was six days, but that has expanded to 52 days between 2003 and 2012. Climate change is poised to continue to increase wildfire activities with warming temperatures and increased drought.

Tony Abate, an indoor air quality expert and vice president and chief technology officer at AtmosAir Solutions, explains that smoky air can enter a building in several ways. “Negatively pressurized buildings due to poor HVAC design will allow uncontrolled outside air to enter the building,” he says. “Ideally a building should be slightly positively pressurized, so air wants to push out of the building. Even in a well-designed and sealed building, smoky air can enter through the HVAC system.” However, an HVAC system that features outside air dampers that can be closed during a wildfire can help keep smoke out.

Read more to find out how wildfire smoke impacts senior care communities and what can be done to protect residents and staff.