- To protect the health and safety of GT Dragon Boat Society (GTDBS) paddlers.
- To provide a practical guideline to assist GTDBS coaches to make consistent decisions when canceling or modifying practices due to air pollution.
In recent years we have seen extensive wildfire throughout BC with a subsequent impact on air quality locally. Many of the Dragon Boat practices have been canceled as a result. Discussion among the coaches, Executive and paddlers have identified that a guideline would be helpful to coaches when making decisions about proceeding with practices or other paddles.
The Paddling Coordinator, at the direction of Executive, undertook some research into possible tools and guidelines that might assist with decision-making. The Interior Health Authority Environmental Health Department advised that the Canadian Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) would be an appropriate tool as it links air quality rating to recommendations about activity level. It provides an hourly air quality reading as well as projected readings for about a 24 hour period. The factors used to determine the rating include visible and invisible pollutants including:
- Particulate matter (PM 2.5)
- Ground level ozone (O3)
- Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
The AQHI rating scale uses the scores from the above pollutants to identify recommended outdoor activity levels for both healthy and at-risk individuals. North Okanagan/Vernon and Kamloops are the AQHI monitoring stations closest to Blind Bay.
- If AQHI level for North Okanagan and Kamloops are similar, it is likely the Blind Bay reading would be comparable.
- If the AQHI readings were different, the Blind Bay AQHI would likely be within the range of the two monitoring centres.
- The actual level for Blind Bay will be dependent on fire locations, size, wind direction, and other local conditions.
Air Quality Paddling Decision Factors
Coaches will base their decision to cancel or reduce practice intensity or duration primarily on the following factors:
- AQHI for the North Okanagan and Kamloops; and,
- Observed local conditions in Blind Bay (eg: fires, visible smoke, smell, irritation of eyes nose, throat, coughing).
Recommended Air Quality Guideline
This guideline is intended to provide a framework for each coach’s decision making. However, it remains the coach’s responsibility to determine if it is safe to proceed with, or modify, a practice and he/she will always consider local, observable conditions.
- When the Kamloops and North Okanagan AQHI are similar, and there are no other local Blind Bay conditions (eg: fire in the Bay) affecting air quality:
- If the AQHI is low (1-3), practice proceeds as planned.
- If the AQHI is moderate (4-6), practice may proceed and the coach should consider reducing intensity and/or duration of the paddle.
- If the AQHI is 7 or higher (high to very high), the practice is canceled.
- If the readings for Kamloops and North Okanagan are in different categories (eg: Kamloops is 2 (low) and North Okanagan is 7 (high)), observations of local conditions will be used to determine whether to proceed with or modify a practice.
While the coach makes the final decision about proceeding with practice, ultimately each paddler must make their own decision of when it is safe for them to paddle, as they best know their own health risks and circumstances.
Details of the Air Quality Health Index and Categories are found at http://www.ec.gc.ca/cas-aqhi/default.asp?lang=En&n-79A8041B-1. Access to specific readings for BC communities is found at http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/bcairquality/readings/aqhi-table.xml.
For those with mobile devices, a free app (AQHI Canada) is available. It allows easy access to the AQHI index for specific locations. You can customize which monitoring locations you wish to use and can also set up alerts from these locations.