State creates ‘action plan’ to keep Big Island students safe from harmful vog

State creates ‘action plan’ to keep Big Island students safe from harmful vog
Officials are creating guidelines to keep students safe from volcanic emissions originating from the Lower East Rift Zone. (Photo: Hawaii News Now/ File)

BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the school year approaches, Big Island officials are creating guidelines to keep students safe from harmful volcanic emissions in the air.

The state departments of health and education worked to create clearer guidelines on what to do when sulfur dioxide levels in the air exceed safe thresholds. This comes as fissure no. 8 continues to pump up to 3.4 billion gallons of lava per day into a channelized flow headed toward the sea.

"We know that principals and teachers feel a deep sense of responsibility to their students and want to do the right thing to protect them, but we heard many needed better guidance on the best course of action to pursue when eruption activities are taking place," said Health Department Director Bruce Anderson.

Anderson says the action plan aims to minimize confusion and ambiguity, so that schools can take "rapid, decisive action" when air is unsafe. So what could these new procedures mean for students?

The sulfur dioxide action plan.

"These guidelines spell out whether (School administrators, teachers and parents) should maintain regular school operations, limit outdoor activities, start to monitor air quality, help students receive appropriate medical attention, establish 'sensitive rooms' for those experiencing respiratory issues, or shelter in place," said John Peard, a project manager with the Department of Health.

The action plans follow a color-coded system used by the state Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The full action plans can be viewed on the Department of Education website:

Schools are also able to schedule informational meetings on the volcano's impact, as needed.

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