Air Quality Considerations
Air pollution can cause secondary emergencies and hazards when it reaches a certain level of poor quality. This is monitored locally by the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency, who in turn issue air quality index reports.
Gonzaga University uses these reports, along with guidance from the Spokane Regional Health District, to adjust daily operating procedures during periods of dangerously poor air quality. Smoke from wildfires is the most common cause of dangerous air quality, but other hazards can also trigger these conditions.
Air Quality Index and Actions
The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a color-coded tool for reporting air quality. It provides simple information on local air quality, the health concerns for different levels of air pollution, and how you can protect your health when pollutants reach unhealthy levels. Measured concentrations of air pollutants are converted to the AQI scale of 0 to 500. (Information provided from the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency website.)
The Air Quality Index is often depicted as a color-coded chart. A sample of the chart, and read associated protective actions for each level of air quality, is available on the information resource page at the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency.
Gonzaga implements different protective actions based on the severity of air quality, the ambient temperature, the target populations for the activities, and the time of year. Generally, when air quality is in the Good to Moderate range, no adjustments to planned outdoor activities are necessary. Air quality in the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups and Unhealthy ranges require extra monitoring and proactive measures to ensure outdoor activities remain safe. In some cases, it is wiser to move activities inside. Air quality of Very Unhealthy and Hazardous are indicators to relocate all outdoor activities indoors and minimize outdoor exposure for work or transit. The Gonzaga University emergency management team monitors air quality in the unhealthy range, and activates the emergency operations center as necessary to support institutional priorities.
Prepare for Unhealthy, Very Unhealthy or Hazardous air quality by taking the following steps:
- Be mindful of current and projected weather and air quality conditions, and proactively reschedule or relocate activities or develop back-up indoor plans if possible.
- Make a plan with your family and supervisor to accommodate sensitive or special consideration individuals during air quality events, including personal leave time if necessary.
- Ensure your air conditioning and filter units are clean and ready to help keep the indoor air safe. If you are unsure of what to do at work, log a customer service request.
- Do not add to indoor pollution and minimize activities which stir up dust and other materials into the air.
- Work with your doctor or medical professional if you are in the sensitive group category to make a proactive plan for managing respiratory health.
- Do not use bandannas or wet cloths as face coverings during poor air quality events, as these do not provide good protection. Work with your health care provider to determine if wearing an appropriate mask is a good solution for your risks.
- Visit the Spokane Clean Air Agency Website for information on the current air quality index and forecasted air quality.
- Visit the Spokane Regional Health District Website for information about wildfire smoke and air quality health and safety tips.
- The Washington Smoke Information Website provides collaborative information on smoke and wildfire conditions.
- The Washington State Labor and Industry Website provides helpful information about wildfire smoke and dusk masks.
Direct questions specific to Gonzaga University activities and events, or for general preparedness information, to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 509-313-6358.