FILE – Overlooking Arrow Lakes near Castlegar in summer 2018. (Dawn English/Submitted)

Province launches new alert system for smoky skies, air quality advisories

British Columbians can sign up for the emails, with texts expected to be available in 2020

People across B.C. can now sign up for alerts of potential or existing poor air quality in their communities.

The province has launched an email alert system, allowing British Columbians to sign up to automatically receive air quality advisories and smoky skies bulletins – both common in the spring and summer months.

“Poor air quality poses health risks to people with chronic conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and it can particularly affect the elderly, pregnant women, infants and small children,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, in a news release Thursday.

“The new auto-alert function will allow easy access to the level of risk in your area, so you can take steps to protect your health and the health of your family.”

WATCH: Metro Vancouver’s air quality could be the worst yet this wildfire season

There are currently 76 sites across the province that provide hourly data on the air quality to a central database where they are processed, stored and posted near real-time on the province’s website.

Air quality advisories are issued for individual communities when factors such as vehicle emissions, industrial emissions and residential wood burning cause air pollutant measurements to exceed the minimum level of provincial air quality.

Smoky skies bulletins are specific to wildfire smoke, which can occur over large distances and change quickly. The alerts are issued when areas of the province are being impacted or have reasonable potential to be impacted within 24 to 48 hours.

Wildfire smoke poses a particular risk to those with asthma or other respiratory conditions, said Sarah Henderson, senior environmental health scientist at the BC Centre for Disease Control.

The province said its working to make the alert system available through text starting next year.


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