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Disaster Preparedness

How to Clean Up After a Wildfire

When authorities say it’s safe to get back to work, follow these guidelines to ensure your safety and the safety of your team. 

Evaluate your worksite for hazards. 

When you get back to work after a wildfire, you may encounter any combination of the following types of hazards:  

  • Electrical hazards
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Potential injuries from heavy lifting or equipment use
  • Extreme heat and additional fire
  • Unstable structures and confined space
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Tired workers

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has detailed information on how to handle and respond to different hazards. 

Use the right personal protective equipment (PPE).

Following a wildfire, the following PPE may be required, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS):

  • Protective clothing. This could range from standard coveralls to a chemical-resistant suit. 
  • A face mask. N-95 or a PAPR respirator may be needed. In extreme conditions, air respirators may be necessary.
  • The right shoes. Shoes should have steel toe and insole, and they may also need to be chemical-resistant. 
  • Disposable work gloves. These should guard against cuts and abrasions. Sometimes, a chemical-resistant glove may be needed.
  • Fully enclosed goggles or safety glasses. These goggles are better for ash.
  • Ear protection. Necessary if you work on a very loud job site. 
  • Head protection. Needed in construction or demolition zones.
  • Electrical safety wear. If you work near downed power lines, you need Nomex clothing compliant with NFPA 1500, as well as rubber gloves, dielectric overshoes and insulated tools.

Learn more about NIEHS recommendations for protecting yourself during wildfire response here. 

Learn more about OSHA recommendations for wildfire response here.

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