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Overview

Health Alert Center

The Alert Center allows you to view all alerts and emergencies in San Mateo County put out by SMC Health in one place. If there are alerts or emergencies, they will be listed here as soon as possible. To be instantly notified of alerts and emergencies subscribe to SMC Alert at www.smcalert.info. Please bookmark this page for future use. 

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Be Aware of Smoke in the Air
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has issued a Spare the Air Alert through November 16

Air quality in San Mateo County is currently unhealthy. Avoid the unhealthy air quality when possible. Up-to-date information on air quality and health guidance is available at airnow.gov and www.baaqmd.gov

Smoke from the nearby wildfires is causing high levels of air pollution throughout the Bay Area. Due to active wildfires and changing wind patterns, air quality could be impacted for many days to come and will be variable and unpredictable. Air quality may improve at times or get worse, very quickly. 

What can you do?

If the smell of smoke is present, it is important that residents protect their health by avoiding exposure. If possible, stay inside with windows and doors closed until smoke levels subside. Set air conditioning units and car vent systems to re-circulate to prevent outside air from moving inside. Because of the serious air quality conditions, residents should avoid adding additional air pollution by curtailing air polluting activities such as wood burning, lawn mowing and leaf blowing, driving, and barbecuing. 

To check the status of the Bay Area’s Spare the Air alerts, click here. See the Air District’s Wildfire Safety Tips webpage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Note: These will be updated as more information becomes available.

Why does it smell like smoke outside? Are there wildfires in San Mateo County? 

There are currently no fires in San Mateo County. Strong wind patterns are blowing smoke from active wildfires up north. Check the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for the latest updates. 

How long will this poor air quality last? 

Due to active wildfires and changing wind patterns, air quality could be impacted for many days to come and will be variable and unpredictable. Air quality may improve at times or get worse, very quickly.

How can I monitor the air quality in my neighborhood? 

Check here for real-time air quality readings. Sign up for SMC Alerts to be immediately notified of any alert or emergency in San Mateo County at www.smcalert.info

How do I protect myself from the smoke? 

If you see or smell smoke in your immediate area, stay indoors if possible with windows and doors closed and air conditioning units on recirculate to avoid drawing outside air into buildings. Check here for real-time air quality readings

Masks such as the N-95 are not effective for untrained and unfit-tested users and may be more harmful than helpful for people. A properly fitted N-95 respirator makes it difficult to breathe and is difficult to use for long periods. N-95s may be dangerous for certain persons with lung or heart conditions. Bandanas and typical surgical masks do nothing to protect against wildfire smoke particles.

What are the health effects of breathing in smoke?

Smoke can irritate the eyes and airways, causing coughing, a dry scratchy throat and irritated sinuses. Elevated particulate matter in the air can trigger wheezing in those who suffer from asthma, emphysema or COPD. Elderly persons, children and individuals with respiratory illnesses are particularly susceptible to elevated air pollution levels and should take extra precautions to avoid exposure.

The CA Dept. of Public Health has more information on health and smoke here

What else can I do to help “Spare the Air?”  

On these Spare the Air days, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District urges residents to cut back on any activities that cause pollution – such as driving, using oil-based paints, gasoline-powered lawn mowers, wood burning, leaf blowing, barbecuing or using household aerosol products like hair sprays. 

What can I do if I’m experiencing psychological distress? 

During these difficult times people may be experiencing stress and trauma in many ways. Talk with someone you trust. 

If you want more support call the 24/7 bilingual Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990. Press 2 for Spanish. You may need to wait on hold, but you will talk to a live person. You can also text message with a counselor: in English Text “TalkToUs” to 66746, in Spanish Text “Hablanos” to 66746.

People who call and text are connected to trained and caring professionals from crisis counseling centers in the network. The Helpline staff provide confidential counseling, referrals, and other support services. 

Can I use air conditioning in my house and car? 

If you can see or smell smoke, be sure to set air conditioning units and car vent systems to re-circulate to keep outside air out. Source: Bay Area Air Quality Management District

How is County Health involved? 

San Mateo County Health is continuing to serve all of our clients and residents, while also monitoring the changing air quality conditions through the reports provided by the Bay Area Quality Management District.

Are schools closing because of the smoke? Should I keep my child home from school? 

Contact the San Mateo County Office of Education for the latest guidance on school closures and guidance for parents.  View this guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency on Air Quality and Outdoor Activity Guidance for Schools.

If I notice ash in my home, how do I properly clean it up? 

View these tips from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for how to safely clean fire ash indoors.   

More questions?

Email info@smchealth.org if you have any other questions and we will get back to you as soon as possible. 

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