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Raising the Flag for Air Quality Awareness

2011 May 2

Last week, I joined security officer William Jones when he visited a group of students at the First Environments Day Care Center located on EPA’s Research Triangle Park campus. The purpose of our trip was to raise a yellow flag on the pole in front of the school.

When Officer Jones asked if the kids wanted to help him, they cheered in unison, “YES.”  They eagerly held the flag while Officer Jones hooked it to the chain, watched as he raised it – and promptly asked why the flag was yellow. Officer Jones explained that the yellow flag meant that the kids could play outside, “because the air quality was pretty good today– not the best like what a green flag means.”

Schools in a number of areas across the country are raising the colored flags to help their teachers and parents track EPA’s daily Air Quality Index (AQI). These flags help students and teachers know what the air quality forecast is for the day, and help them track whether students’ asthma symptoms get worse when the air is polluted and whether they need to take extra steps to protect their health.

Later this week, the Bethesda Elementary School in Durham, N.C. will launch its school flag program as part of Air Quality Awareness Week, marked every May to remind Americans to check the AQI forecast in planning outdoor activities. The school will fly an air quality flag along with the American flag each day.

When you see a green or yellow flag at school, it means that teachers and coaches will encourage students to get outside and get moving!  When the flag is orange or red, it is still OK to play outside, but kids are encouraged to cut back on activities that involve lots of running.  On those days, teachers and coaches will also make indoor exercise space available for children who need it.

The flags also help parents by reminding them of the day’s air quality forecast when they drop their children off at school, and assuring them that teachers will reduce their children’s exposure to air pollution, while ensuring they get important play and exercise time.

Don’t have a flag program at your school? It’s easy to start one.

About the author: Amy J. Gaskill, APR, works in the Innovative Programs and Outreach Group in EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning & Standards

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    May 2, 2011

    Amy, Good Idea !!!! Please, Report to United Nations…….

    Dear His Excellency Ban Ki Moon,
    I’m proud to read this article, because she has an idea to protect climate change by the flag, simple thing, and the children know it. If we inform to all children in the world, I am sure they can do it and should make them growing up their intelligence quotients. Fundamentally, The Children in the world have similarly psycho motor, and should rise their cognitive and affection…

  2. German_Parent permalink
    May 3, 2011

    This is great !

    Teaching them the right things and principals at a young age is the best we can do. They are the futur and they are those who must live on with our world. Might as well teach them what we failed to do over the last century.

  3. Jeff Dickey permalink
    May 10, 2011

    If it’s too dangerous to go outside, who raises the flag?

  4. SUZANNE ALCALA permalink
    June 8, 2011

    i live in the Dallas Ft. Worth area of Texas and suffer through this every summer because I have COPD. Do you know if there is any movement in this area to correct this deadly situation? I would love to get involved! Thank you for your action.

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