Are you Wildfire Smoke ready!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Yesterday was officially the first day of summer! This means nice warm weather, but also possible wildfires. Wildfires are unplanned fires that burn in natural areas like forests, grasslands, or prairies. These dangerous fires spread quickly and devastate not only wildlife and natural areas, but also communities.

Wildfire smoke is a major threat to public health. Smoke from wildfires can cause wheezing, coughing, heart and lung disease, and even death. Wildfire smoke is also the largest source of particle pollution in Washington.

Here are some ways that you and your family can prepare for and stay safe during a wildfire. Below you will also find information about what to do following the aftermath of a wildfire in your community.

Prepare for Wildfires

  • Have several ways to receive alerts so you don’t miss anything important. Sign up for community alerts in your area and be aware of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alert. Also sign up for CodeRED or download the FEMA app and receive alerts from the National Weather Service.
  • Look out for air quality alerts. To check your air quality visit AirNow.gov
  • Make an emergency plan. Make sure everyone in the household knows what to do if you need to evacuate quickly.
  • Know your evacuation zone.
  • Have a communications plan, and make sure everyone in your household knows it.
  • Have an emergency go bag ready for you, household members and pets. For a checklist visit Build A Kit | Ready.gov
  • Review important documents. Make sure your insurance policies and personal documents  are up to date. Create copies and keep them in your go bag!

Stay Safe During a Wildfire

  • Evacuate as soon as authorities tell you to.
  • Pay attention to emergency alerts for information.
  • Call 911 if you’re trapped and give your location.
  • Use an N95 mask to protect you from smoke inhalation.

Returning Home After a Wildfire

  • Do not return home until authorities say it is safe to do so.
  • Look out for hot ash, charred trees, smoldering debris, and live embers.
  • Wear protective clothing when doing any cleaning.
  • Document property damage with photographs.
  • Reach out to family to check if they are OK or to let them know you are.

Helpful Resources:

The Northwest Clean Air Agency (NWCAA) offers resources on how to protect yourself and others during wildfire smoke events. See their website’s Wildfire Smoke Information page: https://bit.ly/3wgdcEM. For NWCAA monitors and related air quality information: https://bit.ly/3lXahMq.

For information on low-cost air sensors and a map showing local sensors: https://bit.ly/3iWcwxM.

Wildfires | Ready.gov

May 2 2022: Wildfires and Smoke | AirNow.gov

Wildfire smoke – Washington State Department of Ecology

Smoke From Wildfires – Toolkit | Washington State Department of Health



10 Tips on how to keep your home cool this summer!

Reading Time: < 1 minute

In the summer, we all know how uncomfortable a hot home can be. With summer being right around the corner, it is a good idea to prepare your home for the heat. Continue reading for 10 ways to keep your home cool this summer.

Tips

  1. Switch to LED light bulbs. LED bulbs produce less heat and use up to 75% less energy than incandescent light bulbs, saving you money at the same time.
  2. Use ceiling, portable desk, and floor fans to circulate air, making your home feel cooler.
  3. Light bulbs give off heat when they’re being used. Add light dimmers and occupancy sensors so your light bulbs turn off when you’re not in the room.
  4. Block the sun’s heat from your home by installing solar screens, window tinting, or shutters.
  5. Buy an air conditioner ahead of time. If you buy a window AC unit, make sure to insulate around it.
  6. Plant trees and bushes outside your home to create shade.
  7. Reduce the use of appliances, and unplug the ones you are not using.
  8. Minimalize your kitchen use throughout the day. A helpful tip is to meal prep in the morning or night when temperatures are cooler.
  9. Wet your patio floor. Evaporation naturally cools the air.
  10. Weather strip doors and windows to keep outside heat from coming in, and keep your cool air from your AC from seeping out.
https://blog.constellation.com/2020/06/25/how-to-keep-your-house-cool-without-raising-your-energy-bill/

Helpful resources:

Home Cooling | Department of Energy

Heat Safety Tips and Resources (weather.gov)


Building Safety Month: Evacuation Planning!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Were you and your family woken up by the earthquake that happened on May 1, 2022 here in Mount Vernon? Some described feeling a shake and hearing a loud explosion-like noise.  

If you felt the earthquake, what was the first thought that came to mind? Did you know what you and your family would do in case an evacuation was needed?  

This May, join Public Health and the International Code Council in commemorating Building Safety Month. This year, Building Safety Month is focusing on safety for all building codes in action. Help us educate and spread awareness about how to properly evacuate a building or home in case of an emergency.  

Preparing an effective evacuation plan is important. The worst mistake that you can make is waiting until the last minute to get prepared. Here are some helpful preparedness tips for you and your family on how to evacuate a building, including your home, in case of an emergency.  

At your home: 

  • Arrange your evacuation plan ahead of time. For tips on creating a plan, go to: Five Steps to preparing an effective evacuation plan | III.   
  • Sit down with your household and discuss clear exit points located in your home.  
  • Come up with a meeting point outside of your home in case you must evacuate.   
  • Remove any objects or furniture that are blocking exit ways. 
  • Make clear pathways to all exits. 
  • Make sure family members know how to unlock and open windows and doors. 
  • Have a plan for evacuating your pets, as well!  

In a building:  

  • Learn about your emergency exit routes and know where a building map is located. Talk with your employer about their approved evacuation/safety plan.  
  • If working in the building, safely stop your work. 
  • Leave the building through the nearest door with an exit. 
  • Wait for instructions from emergency responders.  

Why is it important? 

Being prepared and planning ahead can save lives during an emergency. Not only that, but it can also prevent you from feeling overwhelmed or scared. After all, having a plan will give you the confidence you need in order to activate during an emergency situation.  

Support Building Safety Month  

  • Educate Your Community  
  • Visit buildingsafetymonth.org to find the online campaign toolkit, safety tip sheets and kids’ corner materials.  
  • Issue a Proclamation  
  • Ask your city official to sign a proclamation.  
  • Promote  
  • Hand out Building Safety Month materials to your community, family, and friends. For print copies of brochures, pencils and more, you can visit the Code Council store

For more resources please visit: 

Evacuation | Ready.gov 

Five Steps to preparing an effective evacuation plan | III 

Building Evacuation Procedures (ucsd.edu) 

BUILDING SAFETY MONTH -May 2022 – National Today 

2022 Building Safety Month – ICC (iccsafe.org) 

Magnitude 3.6 earthquake shakes Mount Vernon | king5.com 


Are You Tsunami Prepared?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

As you may recall, on January 15, 2022, a tsunami warning was placed for parts of the U.S. West Coast and Alaska after a volcano eruption occurred near the Tonga Islands. Waves were projected to be 1-to-3 feet along the western coastline extending from California to Alaska.

Thankfully, this event did not result in any major damage along the Washington coastline. It was a good reminder, however, that we should always be prepared for future tsunami events considering our location here in Skagit County.

Are you and your family prepared for a tsunami? Join us in recognizing Tsunami Preparedness Week this week! Register at Tsunamizone.org for resources and get some tips on how to be safe in the event of a tsunami.

What is the Cascadia subduction zone? Why should you care?

The Cascadia Subduction Zone runs for 7 hundred miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Beginning near Cape Mendocino, California, this zone expands along Oregon and Washington, wrapping around Vancouver, Canada. 

An article (“New tsunami modeling shows more flooding likely for Skagit County”) from the Skagit Valley Herald in 2021 did a great job at summarizing the risks posed by our location. The article informs us that the most recent modeling of a potential Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake alongside the West Coast would result in greater flooding, and a greater risk for a local tsunami event than formerly predicted.

What you should do to prepare before, during, and after a tsunami?

The above goes to show the importance of tsunami preparedness. There is so much that individuals and families can do to prepare for, and anticipate, these types of events. Here are a few simple steps that you can take to ensure that you’re ready if—or when—a tsunami occurs.

BEFORE

Step 1: Get a Kit

Remember, this will be your emergency bag and will be the only thing you’ll have, so make sure to prepare to meet the needs of yourself and/or your household. To find a guide for kit building, visit Ready.gov.

Step 2: Make a Plan

Make a communication and evacuation plan with your friends and family. Remember to have a plan for your pets as well! Have a couple of designated meeting areas for you and your family in case you become separated. Make your plan by visiting Ready.gov!

Step 3: Be informed

Learn what you need to know to keep you and your family safe. Also, monitor the news and share your newly acquired knowledge with family and friends. Basic knowledge of first aid and CPR can also go a very long way!

In Skagit County, a great way to stay informed is by signing up for CodeRed alerts. Register here to receive emergency alerts and notifications in your area through the CodeRed Emergency Notification System. 

DURING

  • If you feel an earthquake: DROP, COVER, and HOLD on to anything you can that is sturdy to protect yourself.
  • When you have noticed that the earthquake has stopped, get together with your household members, and go over your emergency evacuation plan to safely get out.
  • Contact a Coast Guard emergency frequency station or any local radio station for any emergency information and listen for an official tsunami warning. If directed to do so, evacuate at once.
  • Make sure to take your emergency go-bag and your pets with you! If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for them to stay either.
  • Get to higher ground as far inland as possible. The further up and farthest away from the water the safer you and your loved ones will be during the disaster.
  • Avoid any downed power lines, buildings, bridges, or heavy objects during your evacuation.
  • Finally, wait until officials say it is safe before attempting to go home. There can be a series of waves within hours.

AFTER

  • Reach out to family and friends to let them know you are safe and to check in.
  • If you become injured or sick and need medical attention, contact your healthcare provider. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, do not hesitate and call 9-1-1.  
  • If evacuated, only return if authorities have said it is safe to do so.
  • Document any property damage. Take picture and keep an inventory for your insurance company. You can also contact Skagit County’s Department of Emergency Management at (360) 416-1850 for assistance.

For more resources please visit:

Tsunami Preparedness | Tsunami Safety Tips | Red Cross

TsunamiZone

SKAGIT COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT

New tsunami modeling shows more flooding likely for Skagit County | Environment | goskagit.com


It’s Not Luck! 3 Tips to Prepare for an Emergency

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Have you ever asked yourself if you or your loved ones are ready in case of a disaster? With recent floods within the county, it is smart to start to preparing yourself, family and friends for any type of emergency. This March, in association with St. Patrick’s Day, the “It’s Not Luck” campaign asserts that no one should rely on luck when it comes to being prepared for disasters and emergencies. After all, luck is for the leprechauns. Don’t leave disaster prep to chance.

Don’t know how to prepare in case of an emergency? Keep scrolling for some helpful tips.  

1. Know your risk for the area where you live and work.

Be informed of what disasters and hazards could affect your area, how to get emergency alerts, and where you would go if you and your family need to evacuate.  Make sure your family has a plan and practices it often.

Also, find out what plans are available for the locations you go regularly. Customize your personal and household plans based on what household members would do if an emergency occurred while they were at that location. 

2. Make a plan to lessen the impact of those risks.

Come up with a plan with your family, friends, or household and discuss questions like what is my shelter, communication, and evacuation plan to start your emergency plan.

As you make your plan think about specific needs in your household and responsibilities. Share your needs and responsibilities and how people in the community could possibly help each other with communication, care of children, business, pets, or specific needs like operating medical equipment.

Finally, fill out a family emergency plan and practice your plan with your family/ household. You can download one here at https://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/2021-04/family-emergency-communication-plan.pdf

3. Build a kit to be ready for disasters and emergencies.

After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. Being prepared means having your own food, water, and other supplies to last for several days. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.

To assemble your kit store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.

After assembling your kit remember to maintain it so it’s ready when needed. Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.

Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work, and cars.

Need a checklist, no problem download a printable version to keep or to take to the store with you. https://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/2021-02/ready_checklist.pdf


Secure Medicine Return…Now Available Statewide!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Secure medicine return has been a major area of focus for Skagit County Public Health for several years now. You may have seen return boxes popping up here and there over the past 2-3 years at police departments, pharmacies, and county buildings. You might have also taken part in one of our local take back events, hosted by law enforcement and prevention coalitions, which take place every April and October.

What you may not know though is that Washington State only just recently adopted a statewide Secure Medicine Return Program, which officially launched on November 21! If you have questions about the program, and about how to dispose of your unused or expired medication, please read on…

What is the Secure Medication Program?

Safe Medication Return is a unified, statewide program that gives Washington residents free, convenient, and environmentally responsible options to dispose of unwanted medication. Drug manufacturers fund the program at no cost to taxpayers.

Safe Medication Return is operated by MED-Project, which is the approved program operator. The Washington State Department of Health oversees the establishment of the program, monitors on-going operations, manages enforcement when compliance issues arise, and evaluates program effectiveness.

Why is secure medication disposal important?

Properly disposing unused and expired medication is a great way to protect your family and your community. Research has shown that unused, unwanted, and/or expired medicines in your home pose an increased risk for drug misuse/abuse. Local data has shown that the home medicine cabinet is one of the most common places for people to go when looking for drugs to get high.

Accidental poisoning is also of major concern. Many young children get poisoned by taking medicine not intended for them. If medication is left out or stored improperly, the likelihood of little hands getting hold of these medications is quite high.

Lastly, disposing of medications improperly is bad for the environment. When medicines are flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash, it pollutes our water and soil.

How does it work?

There are two main ways to return your unused medication. Both options are FREE.

  • Mail in your unused medication
    • Request a free prepaid envelope and one will be sent to you by mail.
    • Place your unused medication in the envelope
    • Mail the package as you would any other parcel.
  • Take it to a drop off site
    • Find your nearest drop off site, and deposit your medication in the kiosk. That’s it!
    • You do not need to provide an ID, talk with anyone, or complete paperwork.

What medicines are accepted by MED-Project? 

Medicines in any form including solids, liquids or patches, inhalers and prefilled products containing a sharp and auto-injectors (such as Epi Pens). This can include:

  • Prescription and over the counter medicines
  • Brand name and generic medicines
  • Controlled substances
  • Pet medications 

What medicines are NOT accepted?

  • Vitamins or supplements
  • Herbal-based remedies and homeopathic drugs, products or remedies
  • Cosmetics, shampoos, sunscreen, toothpaste, lip balm, antiperspirants or other personal care products
  • Pet pesticide products contained in pet collars, powders, shampoos or other forms
  • Medical sharps (needles, syringes) and empty auto injectables (such as used Epi Pens)
  • Medical devices
  • Medicines generated by businesses

For more information, visit the WA Department of Health’s Secure Medication webpage here. You can also contact Skagit County Public Health either by email at eh@co.skagit.wa.us or by phone (360) 416-1500.

Thank you for taking this extra step to ensure the safety of your friends and neighbors!


Returning Home After A Flood

Reading Time: 5 minutes

When returning to a home that’s been flooded after a natural disaster, be aware that your house may be contaminated by floodwaters, mold, or sewage, all of which can cause health risks for your family. Below are some tips for Skagitonians who may be returning home after flooding.

When you first reenter your home.

Before returning home, make sure that it is safe to do so. Always pay attention to authorities for information and instructions. 

When it is safe, try to return to your home during the daytime so that you do not have to use any lights. Use battery-powered flashlights and lanterns, rather than candles or gas lanterns. Please keep the following in mind:

  • If you have standing water in your home and can turn off the main power from a dry location, then go ahead and turn off the power, even if it delays cleaning. If you must enter standing water to access the main power switch, then call an electrician to turn it off. NEVER turn power on or off yourself or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.
  • If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows, and leave your house immediately. Notify the gas company or the police or fire departments or State Fire Marshal’s office, and do not turn on the lights or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return until you are told it is safe to do so.
  • If the house has been closed for several days, enter briefly to open doors and windows to let the house air out for a while (at least 30 minutes) before you stay for any length of time.
  • If your home has been flooded and has been closed for several days, assume your home has been contaminated by floodwater, sewage, and/or mold. See Floodwater After a Disaster or Emergency.

Stay out of floodwater.

Floodwaters contain many things that may harm health. It is important to protect yourself from exposure to floodwater regardless of the source of contamination. The best way to protect yourself is to stay out of the water.

If you come in contact with floodwater:

  • Wash with soap and clean water as soon as possible. If you don’t have soap or water, use alcohol-based wipes or sanitizer.
  • Take care of wounds and seek medical attention if necessary.
  • Wash clothes contaminated with flood or sewage water in hot water and detergent before reusing them.

If you must enter floodwater, wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles.

Throw away unsafe food.

Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water; perishable foods that have not been refrigerated properly due to power outages; and those with an unusual odor, color, or texture. Unsafe food can make you sick even if it looks, smells, and tastes normal. When in doubt, throw it out. For more information, visit Keep Food Safe After a Disaster or Emergency.

Use safe water.

Floodwater can contaminate your drinking water. Some contaminants from surface water get into the groundwater and affect private drinking water wells and municipal water systems that use groundwater.

Do not use water you suspect or have been told is contaminated to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula. Safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene includes bottled, boiled, or treated water.

For tips on how to properly disinfect contaminated water, go to Public Health’s Safe Water webpage or give us a call at (360) 416-1500.

For well water:

Wells that have been flooded may be contaminated with pathogenic organisms that can cause disease (bacteria, viruses). To have well water tested, contact one of the labs below:

  • Edge Analytical, Burlington: 360-757-1400
  • Everett Environmental Laboratory, Everett: 425-257-8230
  • Monroe Water Quality Laboratory, Monroe: 360-794-6558
  • Exact Scientific Services, Ferndale: 360-733-1205
  • Lynden Water Treatment Plant, Lynden: 360-255-5470

For septic systems.

For information about what to do with your septic system after a flooding event, go to: https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/septic-systems-what-do-after-flood.

Clean up your home safely.

Before you begin to clean, be sure to check in with your insurance company. You may need to document any damage to your property.

Take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones during the cleanup process. For more information, visit Clean Up Safely After a Disaster. Some quick tips?

  • Using personal protective equipment (or “PPE”), like gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask to avoid breathing in fine silts and sands.
  • Be sure to wear long sleeve shirts and pants while cleaning and wash hands frequently with soap and water.

Use generators and other electrical equipment safely.

Talk to your utility company about using electrical equipment, including power generators. Be aware that it is against the law and a violation of electrical codes to connect generators to your home’s electrical circuits without the approved, automatic-interrupt devices. If a generator is online when electrical service is restored, it can become a major fire hazard. In addition, the improper connection of a generator to your home’s electrical circuits may endanger line workers helping to restore power in your area.

All electrical equipment and appliances must be completely dry before returning them to service. Have a certified electrician check these items if there is any question. For more information, see Protect Yourself and Others From Electrical Hazards After a Disaster.

Never use a generator, pressure washer, any gasoline-powered engine, or charcoal grills inside your home, basement, or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent. Visit Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning After an Emergency for more information.

Dry out your home to prevent mold.

If flood or storm water has entered your home, dry it out as soon as possible to prevent mold. Here’s some helpful guidance:

People with asthma and other lung conditions and/or immune suppression should not enter buildings with indoor water leaks or mold growth that can be seen or smelled. Children should not take part in disaster cleanup work.

If you have electricity and an electrician has determined that it’s safe to turn it on, use a “wet-dry” shop vacuum (or the vacuum function of a carpet steam cleaner), an electric-powered water transfer pump, or sump pump to remove standing water. If you are operating equipment in wet areas, be sure to wear rubber boots to avoid electrocution.

If you do not have electricity, or it is not safe to turn it on, you can use a portable generator to power equipment to remove standing water. Note: If you must use a gasoline-powered pump, generator, pressure washer, or any other gasoline-powered tools to clean your home, never operate the gasoline engine inside a home, basement, garage, carport, porch, or other enclosed or partially enclosed structures, or less than 20 feet from any door, window, or vent, even if the windows and doors are open. Such improper use can create dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide and cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

If weather permits, open windows and doors of the house to aid in the drying-out process.

Use fans and dehumidifiers to remove excess moisture. Fans should be placed at a window or door to blow the air outwards rather than inwards, so not to spread the mold.

Have your home heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system checked and cleaned by a maintenance or service professional who is experienced in mold cleanup before you turn it on. If the HVAC system was flooded with water, turning on the mold-contaminated HVAC will spread mold throughout the house. Professional cleaning will kill the mold and prevent later mold growth. When the service determines that your system is clean and if it is safe to do so, you can turn it on and use it to help remove excess moisture from your home.

Prevent water outdoors from reentering your home. For example, rainwater from gutters or the roof should drain away from the house; the ground around the house should slope away from the house to keep basements and crawl spaces dry.

Ensure that crawl spaces in basements have proper drainage to limit water seepage. Ventilate to allow the area to dry out.

For more information on mold cleanup, visit Homeowner’s and Renter’s Guide to Mold Cleanup After Disasters.


If you have questions or concerns about re-entering your home, please contact Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500 or email EH@co.skagit.wa.us.


Septic Tips for National SepticSmart Week

Reading Time: 3 minutes

September 20-24, 2021 is SepticSmart Week—a week during which Skagit County Public Health joins the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Governor Jay Inslee in reminding homeowners and communities about the importance of caring for, and maintaining, their septic systems.

Governor Jay Inslee’s proclamation, declaring SepticSmart Week, underscores the importance of maintaining the approximately 18,000 septic systems in Skagit County. Properly designed, installed, and maintained septic systems can operate for a long time as a mini wastewater treatment plant on your own property! However, poor maintenance and other issues can lead to septic failures, contamination of surface and groundwater, algal blooms in lakes, shellfish closures in marine waters, and other issues.

SepticSmart Week Tips

During SepticSmart Week, the EPA provides homeowners with easy to remember septic maintenance tips and videos. Some tips include:

  • Protect It and Inspect It: Homeowners should have their system inspected. In Skagit County, gravity systems must be inspected every three years; all other systems inspected annually. Pumping is not the same as an inspection. Tanks should be pumped when necessary, typically when 1/3 full of solid material.
  • Think at the Sink: Avoid pouring fats, grease, and solids down the drain. These substances can clog a system’s pipes and drainfield. Utilize MedProject locally to safely dispose of medications by finding a local drop box or requesting a prepaid envelope directly to your door.
  • Don’t Overload the Commode: Only put things in the drain or toilet that belong there. Items like coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts, and cat litter can all clog and potentially damage septic systems.
  • Don’t Strain Your Drain: Be water efficient and spread out water use. Fix plumbing leaks and install faucet aerators and water-efficient products. Spread out laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day Too much water use at once can overload a system.
  • Shield Your Field: Divert downspouts away from your septic tank and drainfield to avoid extra water. Remind guests not to park or drive on a system’s drainfield, where the vehicle’s weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow.

Failure to maintain a septic system can lead to backups and overflows, which can result in costly repairs. The last thing anyone needs right now is an added headache or expense from a sewage back up. Spend some time learning how to properly operate and maintain your septic system for the long run, so its smooth flushing from here on out!

Homeowner Septic Education Classes

Skagit County Environmental Health offers Septics 101 and Septics 201 (Do-It-Yourself Septic Inspection) classes for free to all Skagit County residents. Classes are available online and can be accessed at any time. To access these classes, go to: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthEnvironmental/septic101.htm.

The Septic 101 class provides homeowners with an overview of the septic system history, function, operation, and maintenance. It is a 40-minute video followed by a 20-question quiz. The Septic 201 class provides homeowners an overview of the What, Why, & How of safely inspecting your septic system and includes instructional videos.

Note: Not all septic systems are eligible for homeowner inspection so please review our homeowner inspection policy first.

Financial Assistance

We know it’s not easy to think about spending extra money right now. Please know that there is financial assistance available for qualifying individuals.

  • If you need a septic system repair or replacement, Skagit County works with nonprofit lender Craft3 to offer affordable financing with the Clean Water Loan. Learn more and apply at www.Craft3.org/CleanWater
  • If you need assistance with the cost of routine inspections:
    • You may qualify for our low-income assistance program. Please contact our department for information at (360) 416-1500.
    • Submit a rebate application to receive up to $200 back on services.

For more information on septic systems and being SepticSmart, visit www.skagitcounty.net/septicwww.epa.gov/septicsmart, or contact Skagit County Environmental Health at (360) 416-1500.


Prepare to Protect – September is National Preparedness Month

Reading Time: 3 minutes

As if the current pandemic wasn’t enough, the wildfires and extreme heat this summer definitely helped to remind us of the importance of preparing for disasters. Now that we’re in September, it is time to celebrate National Preparedness Month (NPM), an awareness campaign which promotes family and community disaster and emergency planning. It’s an opportunity to remind folks that we all must prepare ourselves and our families for when emergencies happen.

The goal of NPM is to increase the overall number of individuals, families, and communities that engage in preparedness actions at home, work, school…wherever! This year’s theme is “Prepare to Protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love.” Each week in September, a different aspect of preparedness is highlighted. The weekly highlights this year include:

September 1-4: MAKE A PLAN

What this means…

It may help to ask yourself a few questions as you create your emergency plan and discuss them with the other members of your household. They include:

  1. How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
  2. What is my shelter plan?
  3. What is my evacuation route?
  4. What is my family/household communication plan?
  5. Check with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and update my emergency plans due to COVID-19.
  6. Talk to your friends and family about how you will communicate before, during, and after a disaster. Make sure to update your plan based on the Centers for Disease Control recommendations due to the coronavirus.

Talk to your friends and family about how you will communicate before, during, and after a disaster. Make sure to update your plan based on the Centers for Disease Control recommendations due to the coronavirus.

Once you’ve made your emergency plan, practice it! Try testing your communications plan and meeting at your agreed-upon shelter if you get separated. For guidance on making an emergency plan, go visit Ready.gov here.

September 5-11: BUILD A KIT

What this means…

Gather supplies that will last for several days after a disaster for everyone living in your home. Don’t forget to consider the unique needs each person or pet may have in case you have to evacuate quickly. To assemble your kit, store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.

A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day for several days, for drinking and sanitation)
  • Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle (to signal for help)
  • Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
  • Manual can opener (for food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

Note: Since Spring of 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended people include additional items in their kits to help prevent the spread of coronavirus or other viruses and the flu. Some additional items include face masks, soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes to disinfect surfaces.

For more guidance on building an emergency kit, go to Ready.gov here.

September 12-18: LOW-COST, NO-COST PREPAREDNESS

What this means…

Limit the impacts that disasters have on you and your family. Know the risk of disasters in your area. Learn how to make your home stronger in the face of storms and other common hazards.  Check your insurance coverage to make sure it is up-to-date. For information on ensuring your property, go here.

September 19-25: TEACH YOUTH ABOUT PREPAREDNESS

What this means…

Talk to your kids about preparing for emergencies and what to do in case you are separated. Reassure them by providing information about how they can get involved.

Establish a family meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find, and don’t forget to think about specific needs in your family. Your family’s needs change over time, so update your plan regularly. For guidance on emergency plans for families with children, go here.


For more preparedness information, including how to make a disaster or emergency plan and how to make your own emergency kit, go to www.ready.gov.

Skagit County also has local disaster information on our emergency preparedness website. Here, you can register to receive emergency alerts and notifications in your area through the CodeRed Emergency Notification System.  This system is a great way to receive local, timely and critical information when it matters most.


Disposing of Used Sharps in Skagit County

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Millions of people use needles, syringes, and other injection tools to self-administer healthcare treatments each year. People use sharps to manage a wide variety of conditions, including allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, infertility, migraines, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, blood clotting disorders, psoriasis, and more.

If someone doesn’t have immediate access to an FDA-cleared container, it can be unclear how to dispose of used sharps. Disposal rules can vary by situation and location, which may lead to sharps being disposed of loosely—and improperly—in the trash.  Adding to possible confusion, disposal options are different for businesses and household-generated sharps waste.

For HOUSEHOLD-generated Sharps

An example of an FDA-cleared Sharps Container. For information about Sharps Disposal Containers, check out the FDA webpage.

The best way to dispose of sharps is by using a mail-order, FDA-cleared sharps container. When purchasing this type of container, people can mail back their full containers to the mail-order service that the container was purchased from.

It is important to note that FDA-cleared containers can be purchased from local and chain pharmacies; however, these containers may or may not come with instructions on how to mail them back. And unfortunately, FDA-cleared sharps containers cannot be disposed of with regular household garbage. If you have purchased an FDA-cleared sharps container and are unsure of how to dispose of it, ask your pharmacy or doctor’s office if they will accept your sharps container. You can also look for a disposal site by going to https://safeneedledisposal.org/.

If you cannot purchase an FDA-cleared mail-order sharps waste container in store or online, Skagitonians have another option for disposing of household generated sharps.

In Skagit County, people can dispose of household generated sharps—including used syringes, needles, and lancets—in a correctly labeled container in their household garbage. Follow the steps below to ensure that all used sharps are disposed of safely and properly.

Step 1: Store

Used sharps should be placed in an opaque, hard plastic or metal container with a screw-on or secured lid. An empty bleach or detergent bottle works well! Do not use glass or thin plastic.

Step 2: Seal

When ¾ full (don’t overfill!), screw the lid on tightly and seal around the lid with duct tape or plastic tape.

Step 3: Sticker

Label the container with a special Skagit County Public Health label “Warning: Syringes. Do NOT Recycle.” printed on bright orange or red colored paper. Tape the label securely to the container with clear plastic tape. Labels can be downloaded from the Environmental Health webpage here. You can also request labels from our office by calling (360) 416-1500.

Skagit County Public Health’s approved warning label.

Step 4: Dispose

Dispose of the container with your regular household trash. Do NOT recycle.

Gloves, soiled bandages, and other items should be places in securely fastened plastic bags and disposed of with your regular trash.

For BUSINESS-Generated Sharps

Business are not allowed to dispose of biohazardous sharps with regular solid waste. Businesses are required to dispose of their collected biohazardous sharps via a licensed biomedical waste handler. On-site pick up services and mail order services are available. Businesses can contact Stericycle or Waste Management – Health Care to schedule services.

What about disposing of my unwanted medications in my home?

If you have unwanted, unused, or expired medication, Skagit County residents can safely dispose of these items for free by taking them to secure drop boxes, ordering free mail-back envelopes and/or picking up mail-back envelopes from convenient mailer distribution locations throughout Skagit County.

To find updated information on drop box locations, request mailers, and find mailer distribution locations go to MED-Project.

For more information about Skagit County’s Secure Medicine Return program, visit our webpage at https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/Health/medicinereturn.htm.

For questions, please contact Skagit County Public Health by calling (360) 416-1500.