As the threat of forest fires around the US and Canada increases, the RRCA has updated its Safe Events Guidelines to assist race directors facing high AQI conditions and how to proceed with events. Air quality index (AQI) has become a nationwide condition that race directors should be aware of. In recent years, forest fires have been a driving force in high AQI and have forced cancellations of events.
The AQI is divided into six categories. Each category corresponds to a different level of health concern. Each category also has a specific color. The color makes it easy for people to quickly determine whether air quality is reaching unhealthy levels in their communities.
The following is a list of considerations involving AQI:
Plan Ahead. As the race date gets nearer, the AQI conditions will become more predictable. Use tools such as Weather.com or Airnow.gov to monitor conditions. As a rule of thumb, plan with the thought in mind that the conditions will be more extreme than predicted.
Medical Team. Make sure to contact the medical team so that they are able to prepare in advance for any additional material or personnel they will need if AQI is in the 100-150+ range. Air pollution can make asthma symptoms worse and trigger attacks. Even people who do not have asthma could experience asthma like symptoms when the AQI is 100+.
Course Conditions. If the general condition of the course has become extremely hazardous due to the high AQI, then a decision to cancel the event must be made. Common sense should prevail. Consult with local authorities in making your decision. Many local governments have adopted guidelines for outdoor activities, which include cancelling events/outdoor activities for “Code Red” days or AQI at 151+.
Understand that local authorities may expect you to make the call to cancel the event to protect them from cancellation liability.
When to Cancel/Postpone/Modify an Event due to Adverse AQI Conditions:
Yellow to Orange (50-100). Consider alerting participants and outline the AQI is elevated but within acceptable limits for the event to occur, and no changes to the event are planned.
Orange (50-100+) Consult with your medical team and local officials. If your local AQI is closer to 100, consider reducing the distance of the event to reduce exposure time for participants and volunteers in poor AQI conditions. For example, reduce a marathon to a half marathon or convert the event to a fun 5K to limit time outside to approximately 60 minutes or less.
Red (151-200) Consult with your medical team and local officials. If you can postpone your event to another weekend, that may be the best option from a safety, risk management, and to avoid any claims of negligence if your run your event in a “Code Red” condition. If you are not able to postpone your event, it is best to cancel if the AQI is unsafe/unhealthy.
Purple/Maroon (201++). 100% cancel the event.
Download communication templates for addressing high AQI or forest fire concerns.
About the RRCA: The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) is the oldest and largest national association of running organizations and runners dedicated to empowering everyone to run since 1958. The RRCA champions the development and success of community-based running organizations that empower all people to participate in the sport of running in pursuit of enjoyment, health, well-being, and competition. Learn more at: www.rrca.org