High-rises in downtown San Francisco were obscured by unhealthy air by smoke from the Camp Fire in Butte County on Nov. 15, 2018. Mayor Breed called for updated plans for responding to air quality in the wake of the Camp Fire. (Eric Pratt/SF Weekly)

Mayor Breed strengthens air-quality emergency plan

San Franciscans will be better prepared and informed in case of a new bad-air alert.

The Department of Public Health and the Department of Emergency Management presented updated plans Friday for responding to air quality and climate emergencies at a Disaster Council meeting.

Mayor London Breed called for the new plans last December in the wake of the deadly Camp Fire in Butte County, which sent smoke billowing over The City a month earlier. City officials came under fire for their handling of the emergency, with advocates for the homeless criticizing their failure to distribute smoke-filtered masks to homeless residents.

The updates call for public respite centers and regional mutual aid coordination.

“We need to look out for one another and make sure that our communities know where they can go to access cleaner air and cooler facilities,” Breed said in a statement Friday.

Under the revised plans, DPH and DEM will “provide recommendations and guidelines on how to protect public health during poor air quality events,” Breed said.

DEM compiled a mutual-aid roster of city staff from 16 different departments to respond in emergencies.

The report also clarifies information on N95 respirators and provides guidance on a new Air Quality Emergency Public Information Toolkit.

The City’s Emergency Operations Center may be activated when the Air Quality Index reaches 151 and above. Last November, San Francisco’s Air Quality Index reached 357.

The report highlights 17 community facilities that could serve as cooling centers or provide clean air respite, including the African American Art and Culture Complex,the Bayview Opera House, the Mission Cultural Center For Latino Arts and numerous libraries.

The report also specifies “vulnerable populations” that may experience higher health risks, including the homeless.

“Our focus will be on ensuring that all communities, and particularly the most vulnerable populations, receive information, outreach and options on how to stay healthy,” Dr. Grant Colfax, director of health, said in a statement Friday.

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