UC Field Research Safety

Hello, out there. I hope you're all well. Yosemite Valley was closed today due to fire operations and poor air quality from the Ferguson Fire - and many other parts of the State have already been impacted by wildfire this summer - so this newsletter is focused on fire prevention, wildfire information sources, and guidance regarding smoke exposure; along with a few timely resources related to international research, export controlsupcoming professional meetings, and high heat. As always, feel free to reach out to me at with any specific field safety questions or concerns. Best, Sara

Prevent Fires
  • Do not drive or park over dry grass
  • Mow before 10 AM; never mow or trim dry grass (or use any equipment that could create a spark) on a ‘Red Flag Warning’ day
  • Be aware of dry, windy conditions and fire warnings
  • Spark arresters are required in wildland areas on all portable gas-powered equipment
  • Keep gasoline in approved containers with a flame arrester at the spout
  • It's common practice for field staff to carry a fire extinguisher on their vehicle when working on dry terrain or ranches
  • Make sure you know and understand campfire rules and regulations. Unless it is a developed campsite, you will probably need a permit for a campfire, IF it is permissible at all.
  • Use an existing fire ring, if available, and keep at least a 3 foot wide area around your campfire ring free of litter, vegetation, or other material.
  • Keep your fire small and under control.
  • NEVER leave a fire unattended.
  • Make sure your campfire is completely out before you leave or go to sleep. Douse the embers with water, break them up, and douse them again.
  • Try to extinguish it immediately
  • Use water, dirt or a non-synthetic piece of material (e.g. jacket, blanket) to smother the fire. Synthetic materials such as fleece and polypropylene are very flammable.
  • If you are unable to safely put the fire out quickly, notify emergency personnel immediately.
Wildfire Information Sources
A summary guidance document "Wildland Fire Safety" is available to print or share and includes more information on wildfire behavior, keys to survival, and a list of references used in this newsletter.  
See for home preparedness fact sheets and checklists. 
You can check Inciweb for the current status of active fires in California:
Field staff and reserve stewards may find free training from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) valuable to better understand wildland fire behavior: S-110 Basic Wildland Fire Orientation (15 minutes) and S-190 Introduction to Wildland Behavior (6-8 hours). 
Wildfire Smoke
Note: You can use this AQI calculator to convert between the EPA's AQI and measurable pollutant concentrations many of us are more comfortable with, e.g. 200 micrograms of PM2.5/cubic meter of air as a 24 hour average is equivalent to a "very unhealthy" purple AQI of 250.  
A Guide for Public Health Officials: A detailed report  on wildfire smoke from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and California Air Resources Board is available at Key sections include:
  • Composition of smoke
  • Strategies to reduce exposure
  • Communicating particulate matter levels (using the Air Quality Index and AirNOW
  • Guidance on protecting workers indoors
  • Hazards during cleanup work
  • As well as a handout we utilized at Berkeley during the Sonoma fires last year (in conjunction with Cal/OSHA's Appendix D) on proper use of N95 particulate respirators to reduce exposure to wildfire smoke.
New UC Export Control Policy

The UC Export Control Policy is now effective. Frequently Asked Questions about Export Control Compliance are available for viewing. 
If you have any questions, need to refer researchers to an Export Controls expert, or wish to run through any scenarios, please contact your local Export Control Officer.
Upcoming Professional Meetings & Resources
2018 International Research Conference: September 17-18, UC Davis. More Info

Organization of Biological Field Stations Annual Meeting: September 19-23, Acadia National Park, Maine. More info

Wilderness Risk Management Conference: October 3-5, Portland, Oregon. More info

American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) Annual Symposium: October 9-13, Tahoe City, CA (hosted by UC Davis and UC Berkeley). More info

Bay Area Global Health Newsletter: Keep up with global health news from universities in the Bay Area including UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley, Stanford and UC Davis. More info

CSHEMA Field Research Safety Community of Practice, launched Summer 2018. More info

Other field safety related events you'd like to promote? Please email me at Thanks, Sara
Last, a few thoughts on high heat...
Everything I know about heat illness prevention I learned at High Sierra Music Festival:
  • Beer is not water.
  • Coffee is not water.
  • Widebrimmed hats are better than baseball caps.
  • Sunburns never look good. Cover up with lightweight loose clothing.
  • Evaporative cooling methods can really help, e.g. mist spray, wetting your hat, wrapping a wet cloth around your neck
  • Don't ignore the signs of heat exhaustion like fatigue, nausea, dizziness...if you don't cool yourself down and rest, this can quickly turn into life threatening heat stroke
  • Always know how to get medical help and watch out for each other
  • Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink water, start hydrating first thing when you wake up in the morning.
  • For "official" heat illness prevention training - required for all outdoor work in temps of 80 degrees or higher - contact your EH&S office or complete online training via the UC Learning Center (search keyword "heat").
  • Weather alerts and forecasts are available via the National Weather Service
  • Be smart out there, don't push yourself! We all need to adapt, modify work plans, and take care of ourselves in high heat.
This publication is intended for University of California employees and field researchers. The University of California and contributors to this document are not liable for use of its content by others, not affiliated with the University of California. 

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