Developing an online tool for identifying at-risk populations to wildfire smoke hazards

TitleDeveloping an online tool for identifying at-risk populations to wildfire smoke hazards
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsVaidyanathan, A
Secondary AuthorsYip, F
Tertiary AuthorsGarbe, P
JournalScience of The Total Environment
Start Page376
Keywordsonline tool, particulate matter, smoke and air quality, technical reports and journal articles, vulnerable populations

Wildfire episodes pose a significant public health threat in the United States. Adverse health impacts associated with wildfires occur near the burn area as well as in places far downwind due to wildfire smoke exposures. Health effects associated with exposure to particulate matter arising from wildfires can range from mild eye and respiratory tract irritation to more serious outcomes such as asthma exacerbation, bronchitis, and decreased lung function. Real-time operational forecasts of wildfire smoke concentrations are available but they are not readily integrated with information on vulnerable populations necessary to identify at-risk communities during wildfire smoke episodes. Efforts are currently underway at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop an online tool that utilizes short-term predictions and forecasts of smoke concentrations and integrates them with measures of population-level vulnerability for identifying at-risk populations to wildfire smoke hazards. The tool will be operationalized on a national scale, seeking input and assistance from several academic, federal, state, local, Tribal, and Territorial partners. The final product will then be incorporated into CDC's National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (, providing users with access to a suite of mapping and display functionalities. A real-time vulnerability assessment tool incorporating standardized health and exposure datasets, and prevention guidelines related to wildfire smoke hazards is currently unavailable for public health practitioners and emergency responders. This tool could strengthen existing situational awareness competencies, and expedite future response and recovery efforts during wildfire episodes.