Smoke Event FAQ
The EPA recommends different levels of action depending on the Air Quality Index (AQI) and personal health factors. The AQI may be referenced as a way to determine your level of outdoor activity, and when it is advisable to remain indoors.
Yes. Air handling systems are designed to be able to filter particulates from outside and recirculate inside air. When it is feasible to rely on circulated air, normal operations may continue. EHS will monitor select buildings during smoke events to confirm safe occupancy based on PM2.5 particulate levels.
Yes. If levels exceed the air handling system capabilities on campus, some or all operations may be restricted or shut down. U of I administration has specific guidelines on handling this decision as an emergency closure if the need arises. Essential personnel are expected to report to work and maintain critical operations.
Outside air levels are determined by several contaminants that make up the Air Quality Index (AQI). These contaminants include ozone, toxic gases and fine particulate matter like smoke. They are grouped and averaged to create the overall index. As the index numbers rise, air quality is deemed worse and limits on outside activities or recommendations to stay indoors are advised.
Indoor air quality is measured by the specific contaminant. In this case the contaminant is particulate matter – like smoke – which is very fine particles that remain suspended in the air. This is represented as PM2.5. These particles are easily inhaled and tend to migrate deep into the lungs or circulatory system.
If a known contaminant like smoke exists outside, it can be measured inside and compared with outside levels. These measurements can be used to determine if building occupancy or indoor activity levels may need to be restricted.
When the outdoor air quality index reaches 300, all outdoor activity should be avoided. See the table under Air Quality Resources on this page for Idaho DEQ thresholds and action levels for outdoor activity.
There is no recognized limit to PM2.5 contamination indoors.
However, the university may take reasonable action to restrict indoor activities if indoor air quality levels cannot be maintained at or below known hazardous outdoor air levels.
Unless an emergency closure is declared by U of I administration, your working environment is presumed to be safe.
Air handling systems on campus are designed to operate as needed to provide filtered recirculated air. In buildings without air handling systems, windows and doors should be kept closed to prevent outside contaminants from migrating indoors. If you have concerns about your office air quality, contact EHS. Work with your supervisor if you need special accommodations to carry out your normal duties.
Yes, but you may be restricted from accessing your lab.
Fume hoods are to remain active at all times but may need to be shut down to perform filter maintenance. This may cause temporary disruptions until the systems can be reactivated. If an emergency closure prohibits access to your building, coordinate with EHS for temporary access.
You may need to work with your supervisor for special accommodations, such as working from home or providing a localized filtration unit in your work area.
Facial coverings and dust masks may be worn as added personal protection. Higher levels of personal protection, such as tight-fitting respirators (N-95 and up) are not advised and require a higher level of employer recordkeeping and approvals. Supervisors may not provide respirators to their staff without EHS involvement and employee training.
If your duties require outside activity when activity should be restricted, work with your supervisor for temporary reassignment indoors. Accommodations should be made to perform other tasks indoors when possible until outside air quality levels improve. Administrative controls, such as shorter shifts while working outside, may also be acceptable depending on the air quality levels.
Administration will provide communication before, during and after a smoke event. Prior to returning to work, building air systems will be activated to help filter and replace air. This usually occurs before normal business hours. Buildings with no ventilation systems may open windows or doors to introduce fresh air to the work area.
Buildings with no central air system may become warmer throughout the day as windows are closed to keep smoke out. The use of fans or localized A/C units may help to restore comfortable temperatures within office spaces. Avoid the use of window-mounted A/C units that introduce unfiltered outside air into the work area.
Employees should take extra care to remain hydrated throughout the day and wear appropriate, breathable clothing.