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Here's Something To Think About...

Include co-workers from all levels in planning and as active members of the emergency management team.

Assess Building Air Protection

In some emergencies microscopic particles may be released into the air. For example, earthquakes often can release dust and debris into the air. A biological attack may release germs that can make you sick. And a dirty bomb can spread radioactive particles. Many of these things can only hurt you if they get into your body. A building can provide a barrier between contaminated air outside and people inside, but there are ways to improve building air protection.

Depending on the size of the building and the design and layout of the Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) system, there may be simple steps building owners and managers can take to help protect people from some airborne threats. If you rent or lease your space, speak to the building owners and managers about HVAC maintenance. Ask if there are options for improving building air protection.

  1. Know the Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) system.
    • Building owners or managers, and employers should take a close look at the site's system and be sure it is working properly and is well maintained.
    • Be sure any security measures do not adversely impact air quality or fire safety.
  2. Develop and practice shut-down procedures for the HVAC system.
  3. Secure outdoor air intakes. HVAC systems can be an entry point and means of distributing biological, chemical and radiological threats.
    • Limit access to air intake locations to protect the people inside a building from airborne threats. Air intakes at or below ground level are most vulnerable because anyone can gain easy access.
    • Consider relocating or extending an exposed air intake, but do not permanently seal it.
  4. Determine if you can feasibly upgrade the building's filtration system.
    • Increasing filter efficiency is one of the few things that can be done in advance to consistently protect people inside a building from biological and some other airborne threats.
    • Carefully consider the highest filtration efficiency that will work with a building's HVAC system.
  5. HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrester) Filter Fans. These individual units have highly efficient filters that can capture very tiny particles, including many biological agents. Once trapped within a HEPA filter, contaminants cannot get into your body and make you sick. While these filters are excellent at filtering dander, dust, molds, smoke, many biological agents and other contaminants, they will not stop chemical gases.