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Bay Area residents already beleaguered by the coronavirus pandemic are still facing wildfires that continue to erupt around the region. The heavy smoke from the fires continues to endanger the health of residents.

Mary Kay Groth, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR), called on residents to take steps to protect themselves from the wildfire smoke. “Our hearts go out to our brave firefighters and the victims of the fires across the state. Breathing the unhealthy air from the fires is dangerous, especially for children whose lungs are still developing, and for those who have heart or lung diseases or asthma and other high health risks.”

SILVAR shares the following tips from various agencies, including the Center for Disease Control and Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency, to protect families from wildfire smoke.

Pay attention to air quality alerts. Stay informed by visiting http://www.sparetheair.org. Sign up for Spare the Air Text Alerts on the website.

Stay indoors with windows and doors closed. Now is not the time to do outdoor activities, like mowing, trimming bushes, or running and other strenuous activities.

Protect yourself from smoke. If you need to be outside, use a N95 mask or greater that fits snugly on your face. N95 masks are precious protective equipment for frontliners treating coronavirus patients, so to conserve their use, please heed advice to stay indoors.

Run the air conditioner. Keep your air conditioner’s fresh air intake closed and make sure your air filter is clean. If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter elsewhere.

Do not add to indoor or outdoor air pollution. Do not burn candles or use gas or propane. Do not fry or broil meat, smoke tobacco products, or vacuum. It is illegal to use fireplaces, woodstoves, outdoor fire pits or any other wood-burning devices during a Spare the Air Alert.

Reduce smoke in your vehicle. When on the road,close your car windows and vents. Run the air conditioner in recirculate mode.

Conserve on energy. To prevent service interruptions, reduce your energy usage, including use of major appliances during peak hours of 3-10 p.m. Keep air conditioning at 78 F degrees and turn off all unnecessary lights.


September is recognized as REALTOR® Safety Month and National Preparedness Month. In light of the wildfires that continue to burn and disrupt the lives of many individuals and families, it is a good time to stress preparedness in case you need to evacuate your home, says Mary Kay Groth, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR).  

“Although evacuation warnings and orders have been lifted in Santa Clara County, we need to be vigilant and have a plan and know what to take and what to do in case we need to evacuate our home,” says Groth.

SILVAR shares the following evacuation tips from ready.gov, the official website of the Department of Homeland Security, and HouseLogic.com, a source of information for homeowners, homebuyers and sellers from the National Association of REALTORS®.

Make a Plan

  • Assign an out of state contact whom you will contact to let them know where you are going.
  • Decide on where to meet as a family in case you get separated.
  • Always have your gas tank full or half full in case you must evacuate right away.
  • In case the power shuts off, have a battery-operated radio and keep a charged battery pack for your cell phone, so you will not be cut off from the news and can contact people.
  • Sign up for free text alerts from your county.
  • Learn how to safely shut off all utilities in your home.
  • Prepare a checklist of what to take and what to do.

What to Take

  • Your driver’s license, proof of insurance, medical records and other important documents, including passports and Social Security cards
  • A grab-and-go bag with essential supplies, such as water, food, medication, and first-aid supplies, pet food, including face coverings and hand sanitizer to protect you from coronavirus
  • Cash in small bills, as the ATM machines may not be working

What to Do Before You Leave

  • Lock all the doors and windows in your home.
  • Unplug electrical equipment and small appliances. Leave freezers and refrigerators plugged in unless there is a risk of flooding. If you are instructed to do so, shut off water, gas and electricity.
  • Wear sturdy shoes and protective clothing.
  • Gather your pets and load them in the car.

“Having a plan and a checklist of what to do and take will keep you calm if the worst-case scenario happens and you must evacuate your home,” says Groth.

October 2020
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