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Use the "5-3-1 Visibility Index" if there is heavy smoke in your area

On the left margin under Hot Links is a link to the 5-3-1 Visibility Smoke Index

Although there are many smoke monitors across the state, often there are situations where there are none close to you.  Making visual observations using the 5-3-1 visibility index is a simple way of estimating smoke levels, and then deciding what precautions to take. This can be a useful tool.  Persons should always use caution and avoid going outside if visibility is limited, especially persons who may be sensitive to smoke.
haze and smoke affects health

Estimating visibility using the 5-3-1 Index

Determine the limit of your visual range by looking for distant targets or familiar landmarks such as mountains, mesas, hills, or buildings at known distances (miles). The visual range is that point at which these targets are no longer visible.Ideally, the viewing of any distance targets should be made with the sun behind you. Looking into the sun or at an angle increases the ability of sunlight to reflect off of the smoke, and thus making the visibility estimate less reliable.
Once distance has been determined, follow this simple guide:
    If over 15 miles  The air quality is generally good.
    Between 5-15 miles
    Air quality is moderate and beginning to deteriorate, and is generally healthy, except possibly for smoke sensitive persons. The general public should avoid prolonged exposure if conditions are smoky to the point where visibility is closer to the 5 mile range.
    If under 5 miles
    The air quality is unhealthy for young children, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and people with heart and/or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness. These people should minimize outdoor activity.
    If under 3 miles  The air quality is unhealthy for everyone. Young children, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and people with heart and/or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness should avoid all outdoor activities.
    If under 1 mile  The air quality is very unhealthy, and in some cases may be hazardous. Everyone should avoid all outdoor activities.

Using the 5-3-1 Visibility Index
Distance you can see*
You are: You have:
  • An adult

  • A teenager

  • An older child

  • Age 65 and over

  • Pregnant

  • A young child

  • OR
  • Asthma

  • Respiratory illness

  • Lung or heart disease

  • 5 milescheck visibilityminimize outdoor activity
    3 milesminimize outdoor activitystay inside
    1 milestay insidestay inside

    No matter how far you can see, if you feel like you are having health effects from smoke exposure, take extra care to stay inside or get to an area with better air quality.  You should also see your doctor or other health professional as needed.
    * less reliable under high humidity conditions