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Home arrow Health arrow Best practices for environmental health : environmental pollution, protection, quality and sustainability

Topic Areas Air Quality (Outdoor and Indoor)

(See Chapter 2, “Air Quality (Outdoor [Ambient] and Indoor)”)

In addition to the problems found on any day in the air quality of a given area, there is a substantial amount of additional hazardous pollutants added to the air which may affect not only the emergency responders and other workers, but also the citizens within the community who have been exposed to the substances. The hazardous air pollutants may include a variety of chemicals, biological agents, physical agents such as dust from pulverized buildings or land, pollutants as byproducts of fires, and material in the air as a result of wind, etc., which are directly related to the disaster. Indoors the air may be contaminated with a vast amount of pollutants from the existing contaminants and new contaminants in the outside air, and the existing contaminants and new contaminants from inside the structure which have become airborne. The heating, cooling, and ventilation systems may be severely contaminated. Further, in the event of terrorist acts, specific highly dangerous substances may have been added to the air.

Best Practices for Air Quality (See endnotes 48, 49)

  • • Utilize all best practices related to personal protective equipment listed in the Occupational Health and Safety Practices for First Responders, Construction Workers and Volunteers Section in Chapter 8.
  • • Keep all unauthorized people and other citizens from the disaster area to prevent com- mand-and-control problems as well as reducing the potential for these individuals to inhale hazardous substances.
  • • Keep vulnerable people, such as the very young, the very old, those with chronic diseases, those with respiratory problems and heart problems, etc., indoors in safe facilities away from the disaster scene.
  • • Determine the air flow patterns and dynamics of the HVAC systems for various types of existing buildings and how contaminants can be introduced into the structures.
  • • Determine the mechanical condition of: the HVAC systems; the filtration systems and their efficiencies; the functioning of the dampers related to outdoor air, return air, fire, and smoke; and the seals around all portions of the systems.
  • • Do not permanently seal outdoor area intakes, alter or interfere with fire protection and safety, or modify the HVAC systems without the express permission of the appropriate authorities and the concurrence of knowledgeable engineering staff.
  • • Prevent access to areas where mechanical equipment is present or air intakes are stationed. Only appropriately identified maintenance and service people should have this access.
  • • Determine how to contain these potential hazards and provide appropriate assistance to building owners to upgrade their facilities.
  • • Design new buildings to be more secure and reduce the opportunity for the introduction of potential hazards into the structure.
  • • When the HVAC system has been damaged or contaminated turn off the system, discard all filters, and utilize professional services to inspect the system and clean all vents and air ducts before restarting it.
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