There are all kinds of things that can affect air quality, including smog being trapped low to the ground by atmospheric conditions, industrial accidents, dust storms, volcanic eruptions, and wildfire smoke. While there’s nothing you can do to avoid breathing the air, you can be prepared for an air quality event and put together a kit to keep yourself and your family safe.

Find your local air quality monitor

You can access up-to-date air quality information on The site can either use your device’s location or you can enter your zip code to find your local air quality. There are two features on the site—a dial and an interactive map—but the map is the more important feature because the tools it uses to analyze air quality are sometimes more advanced than the simple dial. You can also tune in to local news and weather to get updates on your air quality forecast.

Keep your doors and windows closed

If you determine that your local air quality is bad, you can help to mitigate the effects on your indoor air quality by keeping doors and windows closed. Limiting the circulation of outdoor air into your home can help to improve the air you’re breathing inside and allow HVAC and air purifiers to work better to clean the air.

Build an air quality emergency kit

To prepare for an air quality emergency, you should build yourself a kit that has items you will need and keep it in an accessible area for quick access. Your kit should include: 

A few N-95 masks or P100 respirators for use when you’re outdoors

Two to three extra MERV-13 HVAC filters

A HEPA filter portable air purifier

Safety goggles and gloves for clean-up

When building your kit, masks and respirators should have a NIOSH N-95 or P100 marking somewhere on the package to ensure that they are genuine. Make sure that the air filters and air purifiers you’re using are labeled with a MERV or CADR rating. These markings will tell you what type of particles they can handle and how big of a space they can function in. Choose an air purifier that’s designed to tackle the size room you’re using it in.

Make a health plan

If you or a family member have lung or heart conditions, it’s important to have a plan for dealing with smoke and other air quality events. Because of the increased risk, you might choose to evacuate to a safer area, or you might have a specific room with extra precautions like an air purifier to retreat to in the event that your air quality becomes dangerous. Consult with your physician about the use of masks or respirators to come up with a plan in case you need to be outdoors.


Removing ash from wildfires or dust from a storm can cause particles to become airborne and pose a hazard to your lungs. Use gloves, an N95 mask or P100 respirator, and safety goggles to keep irritants and debris from posing a health risk. When cleaning up, you should wet down or dampen ash to reduce its likelihood of becoming airborne. You should also avoid using leaf blowers that can kick dust and ash up into the air. If you have ash in your yard, lightly watering your lawn will stick the ash to the ground and keep it from inundating storm drains. For cleaning up indoor areas, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to keep from kicking particles up into the air. You might need to change your HVAC and vehicle air filters after an air quality event, as they can become clogged more quickly.