Air Quality Health Index
As air quality fluctuates, the Office of Safety and Emergency Management (OSEM) team regularly monitors air quality levels inside campus buildings.
OSEM works with Facilities to adjust building ventilation and deploy air scrubbers as required.
It is important to remember that similar to changes in weather that can occur during the day, AQHI levels may also change throughout the day. Changes in AQHI are often dependent on changes in wind, temperature, rain and other environmental factors. As such, health risks may also vary throughout the day and this can be monitored using the air quality health index webpage for Kamloops and Williams Lake.
The last few years have seen considerable impacts on AQHI due to wildfires either in the vicinity of our campuses or as a result of winds bringing in smoke and particulates from fires that are hundreds and even thousands of kilometers away. TRU has a smoke management plan which includes monitoring of both AGHI and indoor air quality baselines during non-smoky times as well as during times of increased smoke when there are air quality advisories or smoky skies bulletins.
In order to protect yourself from possible poor air quality, it is best to use the above resources to determine the current risk level, and to then follow the advice provided by the government of Canada.
Environment Canada recommends that at Air Quality Health Index levels of 10+, people reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation. For those who are felt to be more “at risk” (such as people with existing respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, young children, the elderly, and those who participate in sporting events of strenuous outdoor work), the strenuous outdoor activities should be avoided as much as possible. Children are particularly at risk in conditions like these, as children often breathe through their mouths. This allows polluted air to bypass natural filters in the nose and to go straight to their lungs.
While not as severe as very high health risk (10+), when the AQHI is 7 to 10, people in the “at risk” groups described above should still reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors and generally take it easy. Similarly, everyone should consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous outdoor activities if coughing or throat irritation is experienced.
By contrast, when the AQHI levels are between 4 and 6 (moderate risk), there is no need to modify any usual outdoor activities unless symptoms such as coughing or throat irritation develop. At this level, people in the “at risk” population may want to consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous outdoor activities, but this is only if you are experiencing symptoms such as those described above.
Protect yourself from wildfire smoke
Staying indoors reduces exposure to smoky air when people move to a location with good indoor air quality. During a wildfire, clean indoor air is achieved by:
- Limiting infiltration from outdoors — closing doors and windows and putting air conditioning on re-circulate.
- Limiting sources of indoor air pollution — combustion activities (e.g. cooking with gas, smoking) painting, certain cleaning products, etc.
- Cleaning indoor air — central air conditioning or portable air cleaners.
Reduce outdoor physical activity
- People participating in sports or strenuous work outdoors breathe more deeply and rapidly, allowing more air pollution to enter their lungs.
- Days when air pollution levels are significantly elevated, even people not in the above groups may notice symptoms.
- Symptoms can be: irritated eyes, increased mucus production in the nose and throat, coughing, difficulty breathing.
Wear an N95 respirator
- Proper use of an N95 half mask face respirator to reduce exposure to the smoke.
- Respirators provide a 10-fold reduction in inhaled fine particulate matter, the component of wildfire smoke that is most associated with adverse health effects.
- Respirators are widely available and relatively cheap.
- Proper fitting of the respirator is essential to ensure a good fit. The proper way of putting on a respirator is to hold the mask in place and take the top elastic and place it at the crown of your head. The lower elastic goes right over the head and down to the neck. Once the elastics are in place, the mask have a metal strip at the nose this is to be bent to fit closely with the nose and cheek areas.
Activate asthma/COPD action plans
- People with asthma or COPD may notice an increase in cough, wheezing, shortness of breath or phlegm.
- Ensure that plans for self-management of asthma/COPD are in place.
- Ensure adequate supplies are in place including medications are available.
Use a home clean air shelter (home-CAS)
- A home-CAS is an entire home or an area of the home with filtration that reduces indoor wildfire smoke concentrations. Use may be part time (several hours a day) or full time (24 hours a day).
- This can be achieved by using the home air conditioning system with a HEPA filtration system. Portable units must be placed in an appropriate sized room with limited air filtration from the outdoors.
Cancel/reschedule outdoor events
- Decision that group activities that occur outside will be not take place or will be rescheduled. Possible examples may include sports events (tournaments, practices), and mass gatherings (arts and cultural events etc.)
Go to a community clean air shelter
- Spend time in a community based facility such as a mall, school, pool, that has cleaner air than outdoors.