Preparing & Responding to Poor and Unhealthy Air Quality

Wildfire smoke is expected to continue to impact the Bay Area through Saturday, 8/21. Offshore smoke will linger aloft, causing hazy and smoky skies.

Date Posted: August 20th, 2021 @ 1:13 PM
Last Updated: August 20th, 2021 @ 1:38 PM
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People in the path of wildfire smoke can take certain precautionary measures to protect their lungs from smoke pollution. Older people, children and individuals with heart or respiratory conditions in particular are advised to filter air, limit outside activities or otherwise temporarily leave the impacted area.

The Fire Department's Emergency Management Services Division has created an internal planning team that has been preparing for this year’s Emergency Respite Center activations. Staff training was launched in March 2021 for emergency respite center operations and awareness, resilience, and tools to support the emotional and mental health of staff and residents. To date we have conducted four sessions of those two courses to build staff capacity.

Our current triggers for opening Cooling/Clean Air Centers:

Air Quality Index (AQI) of 200 – Very Unhealthy.

When the temperature is forecasted by the National Weather Service to reach or exceed 95 degrees Fahrenheit for two consecutive days, or a single day forecasted to reach or exceed or in fact does reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Below are the libraries with AC and a link to their open hours as places to stay cool in the City.

Alameda County has updated COVID-19 requirements for opening cooling and clean air centers. When we reach the identified triggers, we will officially activate the below locations as appropriate while following the COVID-19 safety requirements.

Optional Cooling Center Locations:

  • North Oakland Senior Center
  • Asian Branch Library
  • Cesar Chavez Library
  • Dimond Library
  • Piedmont Library
  • Brookfield Library
  • Eastmont Library
  • Rainbow Recreation Center
  • Redwood Recreation Center

Partial A/C for additional cooling centers:

  • Rockridge (meeting room, teen zone)
  • 81st (meeting room, computer lab)

Cleaner air centers:

  • 81st Ave Library
  • North Oakland Senior Center
  • Oakland City Hall
  • Cesar Chavez Library

People in the path of wildfire smoke can take certain precautionary measures to protect their lungs from smoke pollution. Older people, children and individuals with heart or respiratory conditions in particular are advised to filter air, limit outside activities or otherwise temporarily leave the impacted area.

Children are especially sensitive to smoke pollution because their airways are still developing and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Important Health Advisories

The Alameda County Public Health Department’s Health Advisory recommends that while air quality is in the “unhealthy” range:

  • The best option for everyone, especially children, the elderly, and persons with chronic lung or heart disease, is to stay indoors with windows and doors closed and avoid prolonged outdoor activities.
  • Some specific masks (N95s or higher), if properly fitted, may be helpful for those who must be outdoors for prolonged periods. N95 masks require a tight seal to work, thus are not protective for men with beards or young children. Persons with chronic lung or heart disease or other medical conditions, should check with their healthcare provider before using an N95 mask, as they can make breathing more difficult.
  • Bandanas (wet or dry), paper or surgical masks, or tissues held over the mouth and nose will not protect from wildfire smoke or small particulate matter in the air.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) has extended its Air Quality Advisory due to the Camp Fire through Tuesday, November 20th. The BAAQMD’s most recent advisory, issued on November 15, 2018, states:

“The Bay Area is continuing to experience heavy smoke from the Camp Fire in Butte County. Air quality continues to be unhealthy through much of the region and these conditions are expected to persist through Tuesday at least. While weather conditions will vary somewhat in the coming days, air quality is expected to remain unhealthy because there is so much smoke trapped at the surface and surrounding the region.

The public should limit outdoor activity as much as possible during this alert, and continue to listen to health information from their local authorities. If air quality is unhealthy in your area, the first and best option is to stay indoors with windows and doors closed. Masks should not be used instead of remaining indoors, but if worn they should be a new, clean N95 mask or greater, securely strapped for a tight seal. Masks are not suitable for men with beards or young children.”

Support for our Unsheltered Community

Alameda County’s Health Care for the Homeless and the City of Oakland have been engaging our outreach teams to support our unsheltered residents:

  • Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) has distributed 5,500 N95 masks to encampment sites mainly through a network of City and community partners such as Mask Oakland
  • HCH has distributed all the masks they had available; a second emergency shipment of N95 masks is expected to arrive on Saturday
  • Year-round shelter beds are available at St. Vincent de Paul (2272 San Pablo Ave)
  • Outreach workers have provided information about open public facilities such as libraries where the unsheltered can move inside during the day

Additional Information and Resources: