Smoke Sense Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Smoke Sense?
- When was Smoke Sense first launched?
- What information is available on the Smoke Sense app?
- How do I get the Smoke Sense app?
- How do I use the Smoke Sense app?
- How do I change the language in the app to Spanish?
- Does the Smoke Sense app work on tablets?
- Why does the local air monitor report “No Data” on the dashboard of the app?
- Why am I not getting weekly reminders to log my symptoms?
- Where does EPA get the air quality and wildland fire data shown in the app?
- What geographic region does Smoke Sense represent?
- I am having trouble with the app, what can I do?
- How do I navigate the Smoke Sense Data Visualization Tool?
- How do I export the data in the Data Visualization Tool?
- How often is the data updated in the Data Visualization Tool?
- Why is EPA conducting this study?
- What have we learned since the launch of Smoke Sense in 2017?
- Who can participate in the Smoke Sense Study?
- How can participants benefit from using the Smoke Sense app?
- How is Smoke Sense engaging with partners?
- What type of information is being collected?
- Where does the data collected from the app go?
- How is EPA using the data?
- Will personal information be taken or shared?
In response to participant and partner feedback, the Smoke Sense app now has an improved user interface with a streamlined questionnaire for participants to report smoke observations and health protective behaviors. Previously participants were invited to submit observations on a weekly basis; however, they can now submit observations daily when smoke events are occurring. In this newest version, participants also have additional opportunities to share their insights on health risk communication related to wildfire smoke. Collectively, these new features will contribute to the empirical evidence on how smoke affects individuals and the range of actions they take to protect their health.
About the Smoke Sense App
The Smoke Sense Project is a crowdsourcing, citizen science research project developed by EPA researchers whose primary objective is issue awareness and engagement and research questions related to:
- Understanding the extent to which exposure to wildland fire smoke affects health and productivity,
- Discovering what steps people are willing to take to reduce their exposure, and,
- Developing health risk communication strategies that improve public health when there is wildfire smoke.
Smoke Sense is a research endeavor that relies on the use of an interactive mobile application by the public to collect information. The project also serves as an educational tool and resource to increase awareness and encourage people to take steps to protect their health from wildfire smoke.
The Smoke Sense app was first launched in August 2017 as an open Beta where we tested the app with a few of our state and local partners. This beta period lasted through January 2018, where the app was then disabled for updating. Smoke Sense was relaunched in September 2018 and made publicly available on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.
Individuals can learn about current and future air quality and wildland fires in their area as well as smoke health risks by downloading and using the app. Users can also report their health symptoms, and the range of actions they are able or willing to take to improve their health condition or lower their exposure to wildfire smoke. Users will also earn in-app badges for participating.
Features of the app include:
- Current air quality dashboard will display concentrations of fine particulate matter and ozone with the time stamp of last measurement. Current research shows that both pollutants are affected by wildfires.
- Users can access the most current information about individual fires and view maps of hourly forecasts of smoke and ozone across the continental U.S. in the “Fire & Smoke Near Me Map."
- In the “Symptom & Smoke Observations” module, users can anonymously log their health symptoms weekly.
- Users can learn about and test your knowledge of wildfire smoke exposure in the Quiz Corner module.
- Users can get information about the steps they can take to reduce their exposure and protect their health in the “What Can I Do?” module.
Watch our video to learn how to use the app: How to use the Smoke Sense app.
The Smoke Sense app is available on tablets running Android and iOS. However, the app is optimized for mobile use so there may be inconsistencies with how Smoke Sense operates on a tablet. We recommend using a mobile device when accessing Smoke Sense. If you notice any specific errors with the app on your tablet device, we would love to know about it for future updates to Smoke Sense. Please contact us here: SmokeSense@epa.gov.
If you see 'No Data' on your dashboard (home screen of the app), agencies in your area may be experiencing temporary lag in data reporting or they do not generate daily forecasts. To see what states have forecasts and learn more about the Air Quality Index (AQI), please visit AirNow.gov.
About the Smoke Sense Data Visualization Tool
About the Smoke Sense Study
Wildland fires produce smoke, and smoke contains air pollution that adversely impacts people’s health. Exposure to wildland fire smoke increases visits to emergency rooms and clinics for problems related to asthma and other respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. As the incidence and intensity of large wildland fires increase in the United States, more people will be exposed to unsafe levels of particulate matter (PM) and other pollutants from smoke. This public health problem brings a need for new and innovative scientific approaches to communicate health risks of exposure of smoke from fires to at-risk populations and communities.
While health risk communication strategies are backed by science and are used across other air pollution risks, little is known specifically about the effectiveness of current communication strategies during wildfire smoke events.Exposure to wildland fire smoke can be sudden and unexpected, last hours to weeks, and affect communities that may or may not have a public health response plan to reduce the adverse impacts of smoke exposure. EPA is continuing to advance the science and technology required to understand the impacts of smoke on air quality and public health. Combining science with communication tools can improve delivery and timing of information about the health risks of smoke to those who are impacted by wildland fires, either near the fire or downwind.
To date, over 40,000 people have downloaded the Smoke Sense app. Our citizen scientists both receive and provide information about wildfire smoke, air quality, and health impacts where you live and work. We have published several research reports describing data users provided during the initial pilot seasons. Overall, downloads are more frequent when there are large scale wildfire smoke events, demonstrating an increased demand for information. While most people indicate they have a clear understanding of smoke as a hazard, they are less clear in evaluating personal risk and the chance of negative health outcomes. In terms of the duration of participation and reporting of symptoms, personal risk factors and health background influenced the level of engagement people had with the app. However, these did not drive the level of health protective behavior adopted, nor did they increase the symptoms experienced.
Perspectives on the threats of wildfire smoke may differ between people. To better understand how people perceive this environmental threat (and others), researchers can classify attitudes and responses for the issue of concern. We reported clustered groups of people based on their health status, risk perception, information needs, and access to exposure-reducing resources. By positioning these groups in terms of their readiness and willingness to adopt recommended health behaviors, we will be able to refine our health risk messaging with the goal to foster consistent and early action. This goal is important because we hypothesize that many people take such action in response to symptoms that they experience as opposed to trying to prevent such symptoms. To create more effective messaging, we aim to tailor messages for people to help them react to the threat posed by exposure to smoke, as opposed to symptoms that result from such exposure. Public health burdens related to wildfire smoke can potentially be reduced when individuals and communities take early and consistent actions to reduce exposure.
EPA researchers will use this data to better understand the impacts of wildland fire smoke on public health and to gain insight on improving health risk communication strategies. The findings from the study will be peer-reviewed for scientific publication and published on the EPA website. View current publications here. Individual data will not be released or published, only aggregate data in which all the data has been combined. Public health officials or others can request the data to inform decisions in their area.