How does Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) assist tribes in dealing with smoke episodes? There’s not a whole lot you can do to eliminate the smoke, so we’ve created some educational resources for our members.
Occasionally we’ve evacuated elders with medical needs to prepare for smoke events. We also recommend that tribes establish a smoke free building or smoke reduced building, in a clinic or a building that can be air conditioned and where the windows can be closed.
We also developed educational brochures about creating a smoke shelter in a tribal building and put information and wildfire guidelines from the state on our Facebook page and our website.
Were there any key lessons from last year’s wildfires – and the relocation that TCC helped with – that you feel other communities should know?
You don’t know how long evacuations are going to last, it might be a week or it might be a month. We hadn’t expected evacuees from Tanana to have to be out of town for so long. Evacuating is not an automatic easy button. Last year, smoke conditions were actually worse in Fairbanks than they were in the village. But there is more advanced health care in Fairbanks, which helps if somebody had an actual medical condition.
We are specifically focusing on the role of ventilation as a way to protect residents when they are indoors. Do you have specific measures you recommend around ventilation?
In the summer, ventilation can be a tough challenge. It can get up to 80-90 degrees in the interior of Alaska - houses here are in the sun and they have to be ventilated to keep cool. In particular, I recommend turning off your HRV and closing your windows. We also recommend that tribes buy portable air conditioning units for one of their buildings as a smoke respite facility.
What channels of communication do you use to communicate with tribal departments and members?
Facebook is really popular up here, especially among the interior tribes and individual members, and gets more use than twitter or other social media forms. With our TCC Facebook page, we focus on short snippets of information with a link for people to learn more. We then use our website to post more detailed articles and provide documents that members can download.
Do you have specific resources you want tribes to have in hand?
I’d like to emphasize that having an emergency plan does have its benefits - beyond flood evacuation plans, which are our most common hazard. More specifically, we would like them to have a plan for having a smoke respite center. Have a location, have an air conditioning unit and maybe have some shelter supplies.
Published by: Erika Whittaker in THHN Partner Profiles