09 BeAirAwareSpring has arrived with cool evenings and warm afternoons. People all over Cumberland County are taking to the outdoors to enjoy the fresh air and warm weather. For many area residents, enjoying an afternoon outside poses little threat to their health but for others, an afternoon in poor air quality can cause respiratory distress. 

The Environmental Protection Agency provides a useful website for daily air quality conditions. In addition to a website there is a mobile phone application. The app sends notifications directly to your phone letting you know what the quality of the air will be for the day. The Airnow app and Airnow.gov use a color-coded system. Green means the air quality is good for everyone. Yellow means moderate or that specific sensitive groups may be affected. Orange means those with respiratory illnesses like lung diseases or asthma should stay inside. Red means the air is unhealthy and everyone is at risk of health problems from poor air quality. Finally, purple means the air is very unhealthy. 

Recently, some Cumberland County Schools have adopted the Air Quality Flag Program.
The Air Quality Flag Program is designed to communicate air quality conditions and appropriate activities to students and teachers. The program uses the same color-coded system as Airnow.gov. Students and staff at schools check Airnow.gov each day and a corresponding color pennant is raised on the school flag pole. 

This program is not limited to just schools. The program can be adopted by businesses, local governments, libraries, fire departments and others. The EPA is hosting the annual Air Quality Flag Challenge, where schools, government offices, fire departments, libraries and other entities can sign up. Qualifying organizations may also receive a free set of flags. Organizations interested in the program are encouraged to contact Denise Bruce, Cumberland County Air Quality Coordinator, by emailing
greenaction@sustainablesandhills.org before May 31. 

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