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Alarm Box: SmokeWise Ashland and the new Nixle alert system

It’s (really) hard to swallow, but smoky summers are here to stay across the West. It may not be every year, but with nearly half of all wildfire acres burned in the U.S. over the past couple decades attributed to human climate change, things are only getting smokier. And while we need to support efforts to make our forests healthier and proactively use controlled burning under mild conditions, it will take time before we get ahead of a problem that’s taken well over 100 years to develop. That’s why we’re creating SmokeWise Ashland to help citizens, businesses, and institutions cope with the smoke.

What is SmokeWise?

SmokeWise, like our Firewise USA program, is an educational effort to support safer and healthier living in a wildfire prone environment. Since last year’s terrible summer wildfire smoke, Ashland Fire & Rescue, the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, and Asante Ashland Community Hospital teamed up to bring the most up-to-date smoke and health information to our community.

SmokeWise is our call to action for citizens, organizations and businesses to work together on this tough issue that affects us and many communities across the western U.S. Here’s what SmokeWise Ashland offers:

Interpretation of the Air Quality Index (AQI) and where to get current readings;

Who’s most at-risk and health recommendations based on the AQI;

Description of filters and devices for maintaining healthy indoor air quality;

Strategies to avoid smoke exposure, including how to select and fit an N95 or N100 facemask for those times you can’t avoid smoke exposure;

Avenues for businesses/organizations to continue operations while providing for employee and customer health, including a fillable Smoke Awareness Guide;

Air Quality alerts that remind you to take protective actions (see Nixle below).

Go to www.SmokeWiseAshland.org to get yourself or your business ready for smoke.

New this summer, the City of Ashland is now using Nixle, an easy and direct way for citizens to get timely information about ongoing issues, major events, air quality advisories, evacuations, and all emergencies affecting town. People already registered in the Jackson County Citizen Alert program will still get regional alerts and messages, but EVERYONE IN ASHLAND NEEDS TO SIGN UP for Nixle if you want messages via anything other than a land-line phone (email, text, an app, social media, etc.), even if you are in Citizen Alert already.

There are simple ways to register for Nixle alerts and manage your settings:

1. Text 97520 as the message and 888777 as the recipient of a text and hit send;

2. Go to ashland.or.us/nixle and sign up via the Nixle Widget; and

3. Login at www.nixle.com to manage your notification settings.

You can control your notifications by creating a private, secure account at nixle.com, or just do the text option (No. 1 above) and only get emergency alerts via text. It’s up to you what level of engagement you want. All city of Ashland departments will be using Nixle to send out alerts on everything from closed streets to wildfire evacuations. There’s more to come as we roll out this new program.

We’re working together for the health and safety of our community. Please join us.

Chris Chambers is the Ashland Fire & Rescue Forest Division Chief. The Alarm Box, a column with local public safety information, appears triweekly in the Tidings.

Ashland Fire & Rescue logo
A sample text message exchange setting up Nixle alerts.