Air Quality Alerts Focus on Actions & App
The Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ) unveiled its new air quality alert system in November that conveys dual messages—when to take action to protect health and when to take action to improve air—information that is now available on a smartphone app, UtahAir.
"We are taking a proactive approach to air quality," said Bryce Bird, director of DAQ. "We are not waiting until pollution levels reach unhealthy levels to issue calls for voluntary or mandatory actions, such as prohibiting wood burning or asking people to limit driving."
The DAQ developed, with public input, the new air quality alert system to better communicate the complex health implications and activity restrictions related to air pollution in Utah.
The new alert system helps to curb both vehicle and wood burning emissions. Wood burning restrictions aim to reduce hard-to-see particle pollution that builds up during winter inversion periods. Restrictions are implemented as a proactive measure when fine particle matter (PM2.5) from a variety of sources, such as vehicle emissions and wood and coal burning stoves or fireplaces, is increasing and has the potential to reach unhealthy levels.
"There are opportunities every day to help improve air quality in Utah," said Bird. "While we can't control the weather, with a little help from everyone we can reduce how much pollution we're breathing during an inversion."
The new alert system consists of two parts:
Part 1 — Action Alerts: Three basic symbols to indicate unrestricted, voluntary and mandatory actions.
- Unrestricted Action (symbol = circle): Solid fuel burning devices, including wood and coal burning stoves and fireplaces, may be used, but visible emissions must meet air quality regulations (see Utah Code R307-302-5).
- Voluntary Action (symbol = inverted triangle): Individuals are asked to voluntarily not use solid fuel burning devices, including wood and coal burning stoves and fireplaces; reduce/stop open burning, including fire pits, fire rings and campfires; and TravelWise by consolidating trips. Industry should optimize operations to minimize air pollution emissions.
- Mandatory Action (symbol = X): Solid fuel burning devices must not be used, including wood and coal burning stoves and fireplaces. Open burning may not occur, including fire pits, fire rings and campfires. TravelWise by consolidating trips. Industry should optimize operations to minimize air pollution emissions.
When mandatory restrictions are in place the use of solid fuel appliances may result in penalties ranging up to $299 per day. If violations of the burning restrictions are observed by the public they should be reported to DAQ by calling 801-536-4000 during business hours or by filling out an Electronic Complaint Form.
Part 2 — Health Guidance: The EPA's national standard Air Quality Index (AQI), which is divided into six, color-coded categories that correspond to different levels of pollution and related guidance for individuals with health concerns. The AQI is intended to help a person understand the potential health effects they may experience when breathing polluted air.
DAQ partnered with Weber State University to launch a new, free smartphone app that delivers real-time air quality information. "Utah Air" app, developed by students at Weber State University as part of the National Center for Automotive Science and Technology (NCAST) in partnership with the DAQ, displays both ozone and small particulate matter (PM 2.5) data collected by DAQ monitors throughout the state. The app is available for both iOS and Android users.
"By making air quality data more accessible, we are helping residents actively participate in keeping Utah's air clean," said Joe Thomas, director of NCAST. "This app empowers individuals to make the small changes that make the biggest difference to help reduce pollution all year."
Utah residents can check into the app daily to know when not to use wood and coal burning stoves or fireplaces, the best times to exercise outdoors, or TravelWise and make one consolidated trip for errands based on current conditions and trends. The three-day forecast can help individuals plan ahead to adjust their travel plans or work schedule to avoid adding harmful emissions during winter inversions.
The app employs DAQ's new air quality alert system and pulls current air monitoring data directly from DAQ's website hourly.
The Utah Air app is available for free download in both the Apple and Android apps stores. In addition to the new app, DAQ's air quality alerts are available on its website, by calling toll-free (1-800-228-5434), and through regular email updates. Visit DAQ's News and Events for more information.