Guide to Smoke Protection


Smoke Protection Guide

Although one of the writers had previously published a KBOW presentation instructing viewers on smoke and wildfire protection, there should be further clarification on this important information, as people all around California still take unnecessary, unsure, and irrelevant precautions to their safety.


Proper Protection

An important question is to consider what kind of protection is irrelevant and unnecessary to smoke safety. Most surgical masks (particularly ones with one strap), tissue paper, bandanas, and anything that is not labeled for particulate filtering is irrelevant and will do nothing to stop smoke from entering your lungs. The best action to take if proper protection is not on your person is to not bother on securing useless bandanas and masks onto your mouth but to limit exposure to the outside where smoke is most prominent. The most common particulate filtering mask of all is the N95. N95 masks can be identified by the NIOSH rating on the mouthpiece, breathing valves, and most importantly, — two separate straps in which to create the proper seal to keep the smoke particulates out, and the oxygen inside. N95 masks are always disposable, the typical usage of a mask should be eight hours at maximum use until they become clogged, this is indicated when breathing becomes harder than usual and moistness to the mask. Straps should be put over and under the ear. Any other way would risk the mask’s seal on the wearer, which would make the mask irrelevant.

Particle Hazards

Microns are a unit of measurement used to scale particles and organisms, particulate masks can filter all viruses/organisms that are 0.3 microns or larger. While they cannot filter large viruses which are 0.004 to 0.1 microns in size, bacterial cells can range from 1-10 microns in length, and 0.2-1 microns in width. Respirators are not only used to protect against smoke but also to prevent sick users from spreading their sickness to others. “Particulate Matter enters our respiratory system (lungs) through the nose and throat. The larger particulate matter (PM10) is eliminated through coughing, sneezing and swallowing. PM2.5 can penetrate deep into the lungs and it can travel to the alveoli.”


Further Protection

  To understand ratings, there are three letters in which to classify particulate respirators into these sections:


N – Not resistant to Oil-based substances.

R – Resistant to Oil-based substances.

P – Proof/strongly resistant to Oil-based substances.


95 – 95 percent effective against particulate matter.

99 – 99 percent effective against particulate matter.

100 – 99.97 percent effective against particulate matter.


All of these masks are rated for protection against all particulates above the diameter of 0.3 microns. Smoke particles, dust, mold, and certain viruses can be filtered with an N95. Another very important note should be mentioned that filtration devices for particulate matter do NOT filter radiation, gas, and any particle under the diameter of 0.3 microns, and should not be used as such, particulate masks cannot be washed when clogged.


NIOSH and your life

NIOSH is an American organization formed to keep civilians healthy, their name stands for the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, supporting every American in need. NIOSH helps conduct research “To develop new knowledge in the field of occupational safety and health and to transfer that knowledge into practice,” According to the NIOSH site mission/vision statement.



Remember that the purpose of this article is to inform those in need of proper smoke protection, because wildfires in California have only become more frequent, with thousands of acres lost, homes gone, but a step in the right direction to fix this is a protection for those affected. Help fight the fires & protect yourself by donating & supporting the fire department).


Things to know about:

  • Microns

A unit of measurement used to scale particles and organisms. Large viruses are 0.004 to 0.1 microns in size, which is about 100 times smaller than bacteria. Bacterial cells range from about 1 to 10 microns in length and from 0.2 to 1 micron in width. 


This is an organization designed to keep Americans healthy for daily life. This abbreviation stands for the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.