Monitoring the environment

How EPA supports emergency response agencies during air pollution incidents

Large bushfires, chemical spills and industrial fires can all impact on air quality and may pose a threat to human health. Emergency response agencies, such as the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB), are usually the first to attend these types of incidents.

EPA Victoria supports emergency services during major air pollution events by:

  • Deploying incident air monitoring equipment when requested. Some emergency services agencies, such as MFB, also use air monitoring equipment during major pollution events.
  • Monitoring and assessing air quality and communicating this information to the Incident Controller, emergency services agencies, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and to the community via EPA AirWatch.
  • Using predictive tools such as modelling and forecasting to provide information about air quality impacts.

EPA has the capacity to respond to multiple incidents at one time.

How EPA deploys incident air monitors

From the time incident air monitoring is requested, it can take up to 24 hours for air quality data to be available. The time it takes to deploy air monitoring equipment can vary greatly, depending on factors such as the type and location of the incident (click graphic for large image; text description of graphic).

Incident air monitoring deployment timeline

* Air monitors are programmed to calculate average pollution levels over a one-hour period – this is so the data can be compared with relevant air quality standards. We need at least 45 minutes of data to be able to calculate a one-hour average

** From the time EPA begins collecting air quality data, it can take up to 2.5 hours for the first data to appear publicly on the EPA AirWatch website. This is because:

  • we need at least 45 minutes of data before we can calculate a one-hour average
  • the data for a one-hour period (e.g. 1–2pm) is shown on the website up to 45 minutes later (e.g. 2.45 pm). This lag is necessary to ensure our monitoring instruments have time to send their readings through the network and for EPA to check the instruments are working correctly.

Situations when EPA may not be able to deploy air monitoring equipment

Occasionally, there are circumstances when EPA may not be able to deploy air monitoring equipment during an incident. This could be due to:

  • a fire that is likely to burn for a short period of time, usually less than one day
  • forecasting shows that smoke is unlikely to impact population centres
  • hazardous conditions that mean it’s not safe to deploy air monitoring equipment.

Page last updated on 23 Jun 2017