At a recent national symposium, a colleague and I used slides gathered during hundreds of school visits to share practical tips and useful philosophies for conducting walk-throughs to assess indoor air quality. The presentation was part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools National Symposium held in Washington, D.C., in January. Rich Prill, of the Washington State University Extension Energy Program, and I took participants on a virtual walk-through evaluation of a typical school building – top to bottom, inside and out. Our objective was to present a meaningful one-hour presentation loaded with practical guidance.
What I found very satisfying was that the symposium’s diverse audience of teachers, school nurses, union representatives, administrators, finance officers, loss control specialists, facility managers, health officials and others responded so warmly to the commonsense approach that has evolved as Rich and I have refined our walk-throughs. Here is a summary of key points regarding our walk-through approach:
- Have patience when seeking buy-in from administrators for IAQ program development. Remember, they are just learning about this stuff, too. Don’t burn any bridges.
- Walk-throughs are non-regulatory and should be non-threatening.
- Walk-throughs are a practical learning experience for staff that builds awareness, confidence and skills – essential elements of a sustainable IAQ program.
- Walk-throughs send a positive message to staff and parents.
- Walk-throughs are an essential step to providing baseline information to shape IAQ program content and priorities.
- Walk-throughs are not a science project – look for ‘good practices’ related to commonsense benchmarks: dry, clean, comfortable, pollutants controlled, adequate ventilation.
- Measurements taken must yield useful information – or don’t bother.
- When measurements are taken, post results for staff right away. No secrets.
- Point out potential problems, but don’t overreact or be alarmist (“It’s not a problem unless it’s a problem”).
- Have a post-walk-through debriefing: Review and build on existing ‘good practices’ to create an IAQ program for the school.
- Adopt achievable IAQ program elements to address issues.
- Offer continued support to school personnel.
Of course there was more to the presentation, with plenty of nuts-and-bolts tips for doing a walk-through, but the key to success is a positive, non-threatening approach. See the presentation video here: http://www.nwcleanair.org
Having invested the time and effort to create this presentation, we are looking for more opportunities to deliver the message. Please contact us if you want to organize a meeting, or know of a captive audience looking for training in school IAQ walk-throughs and IAQ program implementation.
Dave Blake, Northwest Clean Air Agency, 360-428-1617, Ext. 212, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rich Prill, WSU Extension Energy Program, 509-477-6701, email@example.com