Text alert service available to residents in Northern Ireland providing updates on air pollution episodes
The Northern Ireland Executive has launched a free-to-use text alert service to warn residents of pollution incidents.
The service, â€˜Air Awareâ€™, informs subscribers when pollution is forecast to be high, and is intended to help people with health conditions such as asthma or heart disease limit the amount of time they spend outdoors during pollution episodes or avoid strenuous exercise.
Subscribers will be alerted when measurements of pollutants such as particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and ozone are measured as being â€œhighâ€ or â€œvery highâ€.
Subscription to the service, which was officially launched on Friday (December 6), is free from any UK mobile phone, and can be accessed by sending the word â€˜AIRâ€™ to 66101.
It mirrors a similar scheme, airText, which is available to residents in London and Slough, which is supported by the London boroughs, Slough borough council, the Greater London Authority, Environment Agency and Health Protection Agency, and provides daily pollution forecasts for UV, pollen, temperature and air quality.
Environment minister Mark H Durkan, said: â€œWith the launch of the Air Aware service, we are going further to ensure that the people who need air quality information the most receive it. For instance, those with chronic health conditions such as heart disease or asthma may find it beneficial to know if air quality is poor, so that they can choose whether they need to adjust their daily routine when air pollution levels are high.
â€œMy Department currently issues alerts to local media to inform the public of high air pollution events. There were five such alerts this year between January and April. These events usually happen in the winter when cold, calm weather conditions trap pollutants at ground level and there is a high level of households burning solid fuel.
â€œThe service is designed to be easy to use â€“ just text the word â€˜AIRâ€™ to 66101. I would also encourage GP surgeries and hospitals to register with the service so that they can work with us in getting the information to those who need it the most.â€
Health minister Edwin Poots, added: â€œThe air pollution text alert system is an important initiative with the potential for significant benefits for patients with long term conditions. Providing warning to those most likely to be affected, as well as to key health professionals and services that subscribe, should contribute to improved personal and service responses to condition management during such events.â€