School personnel should regularly monitor outdoor air quality in your area to ensure student safety.  WFIS has heard from some private schools within communities experiencing widespread issues from the fires and have had to push their start date out.  We have been engaging the State Board of Education about the added complications for hours / days this new challenge to schooling presents.  WFIS has also been contacted by the Federal Department of Non-public Education asking for details on issues your schools may be facing due to the wildfires.

To reduce exposure to unhealthy air from wildfires:
  • run school HVAC systems with MERV 13 or greater rating
  • If your HVAC system does not allow for a MERV 13 or greater, your HVAC system does not protect against wildfire smoke and may increase health risks
  • Cloth face masks that help slow the spread of the Covid-19 do not protect against the dangerous tiny soot particulates in wildfire smoke, which are less than 2.5 microns, and therefore pass through woven fabric.
When air quality is unhealthy or hazardous, the guidance in the Washington Air Quality Advisory table recommends turning off your fresh air intake so you do not bring smoke into the building. Each HVAC system is unique, and facilities management must decide how best to protect indoor air quality with their particular HVAC system.
Washington Department of Health recommends you cancel all outdoor activities—outdoor classes or field trips, youth sports camps, practices, games, etc.—during times of unhealthy, very unhealthy or hazardous air quality. Outdoor activities may be moved indoors as long as you can comply with Washington Department of Health COVID-19 guidance.
It is challenging to balance both COVID-19 and wildfire smoke guidance as they can contradict one another.
Masking considerations
  • Properly fitted N95 masks do provide protection against both wildfire smoke and COVID-19 transmission. Labor & Industries guidance states N95 masks must be individually fit tested before an employer can require they be worn. N95 masks can be distributed for those who wish to voluntarily wear them without fit testing.
  • KN95 masks are not yet certified to protect against wildfire smoke. They do provide protection against COVID-19.
  • Cloth masks do not provide protection against wildfire smoke. They do provide protection against COVID-19.
  • If you do not already have N95 masks on hand, save these medical-grade masks for healthcare providers, first responders, and other frontline workers.