Indoor play, hourly monitoring, air conditioners – how services are managing smoke

by Freya Lucas

January 16

As early childhood education and care (ECEC) services around Australia grapple with dealing with the limiting effects of hazardous air pollution arising from ongoing bushfires around the country, one question continues to arise – how do we keep children safe? 

 

Local news source The Canberra Times spoke to a number of local providers about the measures they are taking to protect the children in their care, given that children are considered especially sensitive to the effects of air pollution.

 

The nation’s capital has been particularly badly affected by the smoke haze. For much of late December and early January, Canberra has been in the path of smoke coming from massive fires on the South Coast of New South Wales, while on shore winds prevailed, bringing smoke toward Canberra. As fires developed to the South and West of Canberra itself, an increasing amount of smoke blanketing the capital, forcing business and cultural landmarks to shut down. 

 

Communities@Work operates 12 ECEC services across the state, and is taking “every precaution possible” to mitigate the effects of the smoke, including cleaning air conditioning units to limit the amount of particles re-circulated, and taking steps to ensure smoke does not enter buildings. 

 

Other services, such as Woden Early Childhood Centre, are monitoring hourly air quality readings to determine if children are allowed outside, keeping children indoors if the concentration of PM2.5 in the air exceeds the level considered to be “very unhealthy”.

 

At Woden, children typically enjoy nap time outside, however this has been stopped on days where air pollution is above the level deemed “unhealthy for sensitive groups”, based on advice from ACT Health.

 

Staff at Papilio Early Learning centres in Bruce, Yarralumla and Barton told The Canberra Times that they are regularly checking air quality data and adjusting daily activities to suit the conditions, including moving outdoor equipment inside to allow the children the opportunity to be active and explore. 

 

Katelyn Pollard, Manager of the Barton centre said the poor air quality hasn’t stopped the fun and learning, and that the children had been “very responsible in understanding why it has been unhealthy for their lungs to play outside” showing “wonderful resilience and patience.”

 

The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting rain and possible thunderstorms to hit fire-ravaged parts of southern NSW on Thursday and into the weekend. Should this occur, it may reduce the level of smoke fanned into the ACT. 

 

To read the original coverage of this story, please see here

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