Current Air Quality Conditions
The current Central Okanagan Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) identifies the health risk associated with local air quality conditions. The Index corresponds to the recommendations (below) for outdoor activities for those at risk and the general population.
Source- BC Centre for Disease Control
People with heart and breathing problems are at greatest risk. Follow your doctor’s usual advice about exercising and managing your condition.
To learn more about air quality conditions, please check:
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Small Low-Cost Air Quality PM Sensor Pilot Project (2021-2023)
The Regional District of Central Okanagan in collaboration with local governments and SD23, is participating on a Small Low-Cost Air Quality PM Sensor Pilot Project. This is a 3-year pilot conducted by the Meteorological Services of Canada (MSC), a branch within Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), to investigate the benefit of using emerging low-cost sensor technologies to measure Particulate Matter (PM) and to partner with governments, institutions and interested stakeholders to augment current air quality (AQ) monitoring networks.
Low-cost PM sensor locations
ECCC provided eight (8) low-cost Air Quality Particulate Matter Sensors to the Central Okanagan. These sensors are located at:
- Fire Station 101 - North Westside
- Fire Station 51 - Joe Rich
- Peachland Municipal Hall
- Five additional sensors will be installed at School District 23 schools/properties
Real-time PM2.5 data is available to the community via a map product: (https://cyclone.unbc.ca/aqmap). The PurpleAir sensor data displayed on the UNBC map includes a correction factor to improve the data accuracy.
This map displays data in western Canada and bordering regions, such as Alaska and Washington, data from both the regulatory grade monitors and the PurpleAir sensors, the ECCC Firework PM2.5 forecast, NRCan active fire locations and fire danger ratings, satellite data, as well as other meteorological parameters of interest.
- The goal of this project is not to replace the existing network but to expand into areas that do not have existing monitoring or sufficient spatial coverage with existing monitoring.
NAPS site VS Low- cost PM sensors:
NAPS-Since 1994, Kelowna has hosted one provincial monitoring station “Kelowna KLO Road - Air monitoring station”. This station is located at the RDCO KLO Road property and is part of The National Air Pollution Surveillance (NAPS) network. NAPS sites provide the observations that are used to generate the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) and forecasting products (air quality advisories, smoke bulletins, etc.). The RDCO also uses this monitoring station data (PM2.5 (24hr) to provide current outdoor burning conditions through the RDCO online burning system. The provincial station measure many other pollutants: H2S Hydrogen sulfide, PM2.5, PM10, sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX), ozone (O3), and carbon monoxide (CO). The low-cost sensor project, is focused on PM2.5 alone.
If you are planning to buy or already have a PurpleAir sensor and would like your sensor to be shown in the project’s map, please be sure to register your sensor visibility as “Public (everyone)”.
For more information and Q&A on the low-cost sensors project, please check the Information Sheet.
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What to do when a Smoky Skies Advisory is in place?
Please check current Air Quality Advisories. You can subscribe to receive air quality notifications by email. More information at the Air Quality Subscription Service website.
When an Air Quality advisory is in place for the Central Okanagan, please check the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) frequently as conditions can change within hours. Smoke concentrations will vary widely as winds, fire behaviour and temperatures change. Check the BC Wildfire Dashboard Map and Smoke Forecasts to look for active wildfires and how smoke could affect our region in the next 48 hrs.
If you are planning a trip within BC, check the BC Air Quality website prior to your trip and during your stay to verify air quality conditions and learn how to protect your health.
Precautions when the smoke levels are high
- The most important thing is to reduce your exposure.
- Refrain from exercising outdoors.
- Stay indoors as much as possible and try to keep your indoor environment smoke-free. Keep doors, windows and fireplace dampers shut. Reduce fresh air uptake into homes/offices.
- Avoid smoking cigarettes, burning candles or incense, using wood stoves, and vacuuming during smoky periods (each of these causes unhealthy particulates to circulate in your indoor air).
- Buildings such as shopping malls, community centres and libraries also tend to have better indoor air quality because they have larger air filtration systems.
- Create a little clean-air shelter in your home by using a portable HEPA air cleaner.
- Use air conditioners on the recirculation setting so outside air will not be moved inside.
- Drinking lots of water can help reduce inflammation and people should try to take it easy. The harder you’re breathing, the more smoke you’re inhaling.
- Take extra precaution with children, who are more susceptible to smoke because their breathing systems are still developing and they breathe in more air (and therefore more smoke) than adults.
- Older adults are more likely to have heart or lung disease, which can make them more susceptible to smoke. Extra precaution should also be taken during forest fire season.
- Masks are an important tool for people who have to work outdoors, but it needs to be an N95 respirator properly fit-tested by a professional – paper surgical or dust masks do not offer any protection.
- If you're driving, check road and weather conditions, as well as Wildfire Highway Closures. Keep your windows and vents closed while driving. Only use air conditioning in the “recirculate” setting.
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Outdoor event considerations
- If you are responsible for children or organizing an outdoor event (such as coaches, teachers, daycares, and sports clubs) be aware that smoke conditions may change within hours. Check the Central Okanagan Current Air Quality Conditions and Smoke Forecasts to make an informed decision.
- While there is no formal provincial guideline in place, some regions consider canceling events when outdoor PM2.5 concentrations are above 80.5 μm/m3 or when the Air Quality Health Index is a level 9 or higher.
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Create cleaner air at home
Although we can't get rid of the smoke outdoors, there are a number of options for limiting exposure to harmful, smoky air.
Install a HEPA Filtration Unit
HEPA air filtration units, also known as air purifiers, are portable appliances that filter out really tiny particulate matter (PM) - 2.5 microns and smaller. These ultrafine particles are the most common and dangerous component of wildfire smoke. HEPA air filtration units typically come with replaceable carbon pre-filters that also remove the Volatile Organic Compounds in wildfire smoke, such as benzene, acrolein, and formeldehyde. Pre-filters take care of larger particles such as pollen, too. And one more bonus: because the units blow out filtered air, they double as fans!
Portable filtration units use small HEPA filters and plug into a standard wall outlet in your home. HEPA air filters work best when all windows and outside doors are closed.
Buy the right air filtration unit to fit the room where you'll use it most frequently, such as the bedroom. Most units list the size of room they can filter effectively. Others list a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR), in which case, choose a tobacco smoke CADR that covers at least two thirds of the room’s area. For example, a 10’ x 12’ room (120 square feet) would require an air cleaner with a tobacco smoke CADR of at least 80. If you buy a portable air cleaner, follow the manufacturer’s specifications to choose the right size for the room you will use it in.
If you have a central heating and cooling system, the filters that can provide effective protection from wildfire smoke are the MERV 13 up to HEPA.
Be sure to have filter replacements available. During prolonged smoke events the filter's efficiency could be affected.
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