A few days after the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s New Year’s Eve carnival, my family and I drove past the Community Building and noticed that an orange flag was flying. I said, “Look! The carnival left their flag behind.” Little did I know it wasn’t the carnival’s flag, but we were looking at the new flagpoles installed by the Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Department (EPNR) Air Quality Program for its Air Quality Communications Network.
’“The flagpoles were installed to provide real-time air-quality information to Community ’members, especially those in sensitive groups such as elders, students, and people with asthma or other lung diseases,” said Chris Horan, EPNR environmental engineer.
The flagpoles are located at the Two Waters Building, the Senior Center, Salt River High School, the Lehi Community Center and the Salt River Community Center.
At the Salt River High School location, students will be raising the flags each school day as they learn about air quality, explained Horan.
The Air Quality Communications Network uses green, yellow, orange and red flags, which match the local air quality index.
Green: Air quality is good; you do not need to modify your outdoor activities.
Yellow: Air quality is acceptable, but there might be health concerns for a small number of people.
Orange: Air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as elders, children with asthma and people with respiratory problems.
Red: Air quality is unhealthy. People may begin to feel some health effects, and members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.
Outdoor activity should be limited and sensitive individuals should stay indoors.
Different pollutants are problematic during different times of the year. From April through October the flags will indicate ozone levels, and from October through March they will be issued for particulate matter (PM) pollution. If a warning is issued for both ozone and particulates, the flag that protects the greater at-risk population will be displayed.
For more information on the Air Quality Communications Network flagpoles, call EPNR’s Air Quality Program at (480) 362-7500 or check out their Web site, www.srpmic-nsn.gov/government/epnr/aqhome.asp.