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The North Carolina Air Awareness Program is a public outreach and education program of the North Carolina Division of Air Quality. The goal of the program is to reduce air pollution though voluntary actions by individuals and organizations. For the past decade NCDAQ has supported and collaborated with local Air Awareness Coordinators throughout the state including the Unifour Area. Until recently the UAQC participated without outside funding to support education and outreach efforts.  However in 2009, UAQC was awarded $20,000 per year for three years from a DAQ federal CMAQ funding to support the local education and outreach efforts.


Statewide Campaigns


The North Carolina Air Awareness Program is a public outreach and education program of the North Carolina Division of Air Quality. The goal of the program is to reduce air pollution though voluntary actions by individuals and organizations. The program seeks to educate individuals about the sources of air pollution and explain how the health effects of air pollution can be minimized by modification of outdoor activities on ozone action days. In addition, the program aims to inform the public of ways to minimize production of air pollutants to improve air quality over time.


In addition to being a partner in the Greater Hickory/Unifour area, N.C. Air Awareness has local programs in the Triangle, the Triad, the greater Charlotte area, Fayetteville and the Asheville area.


NCDAQ works closely with local air agencies and Councils of Government to accomplish program goals. Although some program activities are centrally coordinated from the NCDAQ Raleigh Central Office, locally based area coordinators direct most local program activities. In the Triad and Charlotte areas, the local Air Awareness Programs are housed in the Forsyth County Environmental Affairs Department (FCEAD) and the Mecklenburg County Air Quality agency, respectively. In Asheville and the Triangle, local programs are housed at the NCDAQ Asheville Regional Office and the NCDAQ Central Office.


Program Components


The AQ Forecast: The most visible element of the program is the AQ forecast, seen by a large segment of the public on local TV news weather segments. Expected pollutant levels, in terms of color code and Air Quality Index (AQI) number, are forecasted year around by NCDAQ meteorologists. These forecasts are distributed to local media (television, radio, and newspaper) and to area businesses and individuals. The forecast is also displayed on the NCDAQ web page. Separate forecasts are issued for the Triangle, Charlotte, Hickory, Rocky Mount, Fayetteville and Asheville. The FCEAD issues air quality forecasts for the Triad.

Air Awareness


School-Based Outreach: Program staff conduct educator-training workshops. Workshop participants can earn credit toward Environmental Educator certification (through NC Office of Environmental Education) as well as continuing education credits. Program staff also give classroom presentations at area schools. To learn more about school outreach programs, contact John Wear at 828.485.4283.


Regional Air Quality Coalitions: As Coalition members, area business, agencies and organizations multiply NCDAQ's education efforts by distributing the ozone forecast to employees and providing education about air quality. Regional Coalitions in Asheville, Hickory, the Triad, Charlotte and the Triangle count over 500 businesses and organizations statewide.


Public outreach: The North Carolina Air Awareness Program utilizes a wide range of web and media outlets to broadcast our message to the general public. These include statewide radio messages covering open burning, idle reduction, clean air tips and much more. Through both local coordinators and state representatives, our program regularly exhibits at health, environmental, and state fairs and festivals. Public information is distributed through the program website, and the toll-free air quality hotline 1-888-RU4NCAIR. Information may also be obtained by emailing



Know the Code Campaign


The Air Quality Index (AQI) is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your outdoor air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. EPA calculates the AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. For each of these pollutants, EPA has established national air quality standards to protect public health.


AirNow Web Site


The AIRNow Web site (run by EPA) provides the public with easy access to national air quality information. The Web site offers daily AQI forecasts as well as real-time AQI conditions across the US, and provides links to more detailed State and local air quality Web sites.




EnviroFlash is a new electronic information system designed to communicate environmental issues to the public. EnviroFlash is a partnership between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state and local air quality agencies. 


EnviroFlash provides you with timely air quality information that you can use to plan your daily activities and protect your health. With EnviroFlash, you have complete control of your forecast subscription. Subscription is fast and easy, and you decide which forecasts to receive. You can change or discontinue your subscription at any time through the automated EnviroFlash web page at


The forecasts are developed daily by staff meteorologists at the North Carolina Division of Air Quality, just as they have been since 1998. These are the same forecasts you might see in your newspaper or on your local TV weather report.





Unnecessary idling wastes fuel, costs money and pollutes the air. NCDAQ had developed several initiatives to reduce idling of all diesel and gasoline vehicles.


Passenger Vehicles Program: Turn Off Your Engine  “Breathe Better, Save Money”


This is a voluntary campaign aimed at protecting people's health and the environment, especially children and people with respiratory problems, by reducing vehicle emissions which are one of the main contributors to air pollution in our region. Learn how you can receive signs for parking lots and information for your organization or school.


Heavy-Duty Truck Rule


In 2010, the N.C. Environmental Management Commission (EMC) adopted the Heavy Duty Diesel Truck Rule as part of the state’s efforts to reduce air pollution, protect public health and meet more stringent federal air quality standards. The rule requires operators of heavy-duty trucks to reduce unnecessary idling in North Carolina. The commission sought input from truckers, shipping companies and other stakeholders in developing the rule, and more than 20 states have similar rules.


Idling vehicles are significant sources of air pollution. The state Division of Air Quality estimates the rule will reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, the primary cause of ozone in North Carolina, by up to 1,300 tons per year statewide. In comparison, a moderate-sized coal-fired power plant typically emits about 500 tons of NOx a year.  The rule could reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas, by as much as 100,000 tons per year. Exhaust from idling vehicles also contains fine particles and toxic air pollutants that can pose health risks for truckers and other people at highway rest areas, truck stops and other places where idling vehicles congregate.


Operators could save a lot of fuel and money by complying with the idle rule.  A heavy-duty vehicle typically burns about one gallon of fuel per hour while idling.  DAQ estimates the idle rule will save up to 9 million gallons of fuel per year statewide.


Who must reduce idling?


The idle-reduction rule applies to on-road gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles with loaded weights greater than 10,000 pounds. Under the rule, operators should not idle their vehicles more than five consecutive minutes in any 60-minute period except for certain cases dealing with safety, health and economic concerns.


The rule makes allowances for cases when idling may be necessary. For example, operators of emergency vehicles such as fire trucks can idle while responding to emergencies or during training exercises. Heavy-duty vehicles can idle when it’s necessary to operate equipment that depends on their engines, such as hoists and refrigerators. 


Options for idle reduction


The easiest way to reduce idling is simply to turn off your engine.  However, DAQ recognizes that vehicle operators often idle their engines for legitimate reasons, such as providing power for air conditioners, refrigerators and other equipment. Truckers can avoid much idling by stopping at truck stops that provide electricity and other services. 


Another alternative is to install auxiliary power units, or APUs, to provide the electricity needed to run air conditioners and other equipment.  Even though APUs can cost as much as $10,000 to install in a truck, DAQ estimates that the fuel and wear-and-tear savings from reduced idling would offset those costs in about one to two years for most trucks, depending on fuel costs. DAQ may have grant money available for operators who install APUs. More information about APUs and possible rebates can be found on the DAQ website:


DAQ and the local air awareness coordinators are focusing on education and outreach to achieve compliance with the idle rule for heavy-duty vehicles. However, as with an air quality rule, DAQ has the authority to levy fines.  The division anticipates that most enforcement actions would be complaint-driven. Citizens can report suspected case of unnecessary idling on the DAQ website:


The purpose of the idle reduction signage is to reduce pollution from idling buses and cars that negatively affect a child’s healthy lung growth and development. Children are more vulnerable to the impacts of vehicle pollution than other populations.


Most of our air quality problems in North Carolina are mobile source related.  Vehicle emissions are the number one source of air pollution in many areas in North Carolina. When a car is idling, it's also polluting. Idling wastes money and natural resources. It can damage vehicles, pollute the air and harm our health.  Our voluntary program is aimed at distributing free signs and materials to partners interested in keeping unnecessary idling under control in their parking lot and pick-up areas.


During 2009-2010 all public schools in the region were provided one to two signs per school. School district staff mounts signs on existing posts or walls.


Curriculum utilized in conjunction with Anti-Idling:


1st Grade, Ready, Set, Stop Idling:  Students learn what is good and bad for the air by watching a video clip, taking part in a card activity, acting like cars and drawing and writing about idling.


2nd Grade, Make a Good Choice: Choose No Idling: By creating posters and t-shirts and reading a book, students explore how making good choices can help the environment while bad choices do the opposite.


Grades 3 – 5, Idlers: Please Stop Your Engines: After collecting idling data at school for one week, students make graphs using the information and slogans for mock no-idle bumper stickers. Please Do Not Make Us Cough, Turn Your Engine Off.  Students complete graphic and writing organizers to prepare for a persuasive essay that educates and creates awareness about the harmful effects of idling and persuades others to stop idling.

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