Record wildfires, health officials warn residents to be prepared in case of emergency

Kamari Esquerra

2021 is proving to be a historic wildfire season.

This week alone, Riverside County has seen two fires scorch hundreds of acres of land and destroy a number of homes in the Anza and Banning fires.

As wildfires become more permanent, starting earlier and ending later each year, officials are warning Coachella Valley residents be prepared in case of emergency.

Kimberly Aufrecht, Regional Preparedness Manager for the American Red Cross Southern California Region, said whether a wildfire erupts near your home or miles away, it’s important to know how to protect yourself.

“A huge part of preparing for wildfires that don’t happen right near you is to prepare for the smoke and know what to do when the smoke comes your way,” said Aufrecht.

A recent study by the American Heart Association found that wildfire smoke exposure was associated with increased risk of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Health officials hope to shed light not only on the respiratory effects, but also the effects of wildfire smoke on the heart.

“Wildfire smoke exposure was associated with increased rate of emergency department visits for cardiovascular diseases including heart attack, arrhythmias, heart failure, and stroke,” said Dr. Ali Delbakhsh, a Desert Oasis Healthcare Cardiologist.

Aufrecht said when it comes to protecting yourself and your loved ones…

“There’s 3 steps: get a kit, make a plan, and be informed,” said Aufrecht. “Make sure that you have all the supplies you’re going to need in an emergency and gather all those- food, water, medications. Make a plan- sit down with your family, decide where you’re going to go, how you’re going to evacuate, (and) how you’re going to communicate. Figure out those things before it happens so you know what to do.” 

The American Red Cross recommends practicing your plans ahead of emergencies.

“It’s really important to practice what we plan so that we know exactly how to react when that emergency happens,” said Aufrecht. 

Most importantly, Aufrecht said it’s important to stay alert.

“Be informed and know where to get your information,” said Aufrecht. “Disasters can occur any time and anywhere so it’s important for all of us to be prepared for anything that happens.” 




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