Wildfire smoke health and safety 

Wildfire Wildfire smoke can cause poor air quality and reduced visibility on campus. This smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health, even at low concentrations. Those most at risk include people with lung disease (including asthma), heart disease, existing illness or chronic health conditions, as well as older adults, children, pregnant people and people who work outdoors.

Different people respond differently to being exposed to smoke. Common, short-term reactions can include scratchy throat, itchy eyes, runny nose, a headache and coughing or wheezing. Some people may experience more severe symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath and heart palpitations. Reducing your exposure to wildfire smoke is the best way to limit the effects on your health.

Here is what Mount Royal is doing to mitigate this risk on campus when there is an air quality issue due to wildfire smoke:

  • We monitor the conditions of the outdoor air quality. When the air quality registers 8 or above on the air quality index, Facilities Management enables its air handling system smoke protocols. This allows only the minimum required amount of outdoor air in buildings through the intake system, while recycling the majority of the inside air through MERV 13 air filtration. Although not perfect, this heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) operation limits the amount of smoky outdoor air coming into the system.
    • Please note: Specific Science & Tech lab spaces are required by legislation to run on balanced 100 percent ODA supply and 100 percent exhaust at all times. All outdoor air which enters is fully exhausted. These spaces may experience higher levels of smoke odours.
  • When the level of smoke in outdoor air declines and the overall quality improves, we reset the HVAC system to allow more outdoor air in. This flushes the air inside the buildings.
  • All HVAC systems on campus are equipped with a high level of air filtration at a MERV 13 rating. This removes particulates and assists in limiting smoke impact of the minimum required outdoor air, as well as filtering the recycled indoor air.
  • We monitor the fire alarm system as it might be triggered by the smoke.

Here is what you can to reduce your exposure when there is an air quality issue due to wildfire smoke:

  • Limit your time outdoors. If you must be outdoors, use a well-fitted mask — N95 or equivalent — to reduce your exposure to the fine particles in the smoke, which are the greatest risk to your health.
  • Drink lots of water to keep your throat and nose moist, which reduces the irritation caused by the particles in the smoke.
  • Listen to your body. Stop or reduce your activity level if breathing becomes uncomfortable or you or someone in your care feel unwell. Contact your health care provider or call 811 if you need advice.
  • At home, if the situation allows, use the highest-rated MERV filter for your system (ideally rated 13 or higher) and set the fan to recirculate air constantly. High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) air cleaners are also a resource to clean the air. Keep your doors and windows closed to limit the amount of smoke that comes in if the temperature allows.
  • If you’re in a vehicle, turn on the air conditioning and set the air to recirculate.
  • Check the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) and monitor your symptoms.

Here are resources you may find helpful:

If you have any questions, contact Environmental Health & Safety at ehs@mtroyal.ca. You can also contact Dylan Pritchard, manager, Building Operations, at dpritchard@mtroyal.ca.