PUBLICATIONS
HOME
DISASTER RESPONSE GUIDES
BEING PREPARED - READ ONLINE
COURSE MATERIALS
ABOUT DR KATE

DR-KATE.COM

Indoor Environment

Fresh Air

Most of us don't spend a lot of time worrying about indoor air quality. We put air fresheners in the bathroom and spray something scented if the kitchen smells of fish. In a disaster situation, the indoor air quality can become a big problem.

The first consideration is carbon monoxide. It is produced any time you burn anything and it can kill very quickly. It has no odor so you can't detect it without a sensor or a canary. Do not burn wood or natural gas inside a building without a proper working chimney and an adequate source of outside air. Never use a fuel burning heater or cook stove or generator inside a building no matter what kind of fuel it uses. If you are burning anything for power or heat or cooking, keep it outside and away from the house.

Think about other sources of air contamination as well. During a storm we tend to seal houses up tight. We want to keep out the water or the cold or the dust. But keeping these things out means keeping a lot of other air contaminants in. Don't use sprays or aerosols unless absolutely necessary. Get rid of all the air fresheners. Clean with damp rags to keep from putting dust in the air. Use your sense of smell to help you keep your environment clean. If the garbage stinks, it needs to be taken out. If there are toilet smells, look at your sanitary arrangements.

Ventilate the house to get rid of the pollution created by cooking, cleaning and the presence of people. Normally, we try to have about 15% of the air in a house turn over every hour. In heat, most people open all the windows and doors and ventilation is not a problem. In cold, we close up everything and the air gets stale very quickly. If you are using a fireplace or wood stove, opening a window or door for intake air will provide enough air exchanges. Just don't use the window right by the fireplace and expect it to ventilate the whole house. If you aren't getting air this way, think about opening the house for a few minutes a couple of times a day.

Use good sense about how much ventilation you need. If there are just a couple of people in a huge house, you don't need to worry about ventilating. If there are a couple of dozen people and all their pets, you are going to need to open up the house some.

Houses need outside air
for ventilation

Chemicals In The House

Chemicals are a part of our day to day life. Your first concern about hazardous materials should be what you bring into your home. There are several specific groups of chemicals in the house that can be hazardous: cleaning products, automotive products, garden products, indoor pesticides like insect sprays and rodent poisons, maintenance and hobby supplies like paints and glues, and anything flammable.

Keep your home as chemically clean as possible. Buy the smallest container of these products that will meet your immediate needs. Keep the product in the original container and protect the label. Follow the instructions on the label for using the chemical. Never mix chemicals or chemical waste. (It is particularly important that you never mix chlorine bleach with any other chemical since chlorine gas can kill you.)† Clean up chemical spills immediately. Never store anything but food in a food container. Never smoke around household chemicals. Never use sprays, cleaners, paints, pesticides or other flammable materials around an open flame. Dispose of unused or outdated chemicals properly. If you donít know what to do with them, call your waste disposal company for information.