Latest Updates

UCSF is currently monitoring the August 2020 wildfires, air quality issues, and associated power outages throughout Northern California.


September 11, 2020

Safety Bulletin: Update #3

UCSF leaders and emergency management teams are monitoring fluctuating air quality in the Bay Area due to widespread wildfires to help protect the safety and security of employees, learners and patients.

Air quality in San Francisco, Oakland, and Fresno continues to change based on conditions between moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups, unhealthy and very unhealthy. Forecasts suggest current poor air quality conditions could persist over the next several days. Today is a Spare the Air day.

In response to fluctuating air quality, UCSF is taking the following actions:

  • UCSF has curtailed all non-essential outdoor work. All essential outdoor workers have been provided N95 masks.
  • Staff from UCSF’s Environment, Health & Safety continue to conduct air monitoring in buildings across campus and UCSF Health. Due to the mechanically filtered air, the air quality found inside UCSF’s buildings continues to be better than ambient conditions outdoors.

N95 Mask Distribution

When the air quality is determined to be very unhealthy or hazardous (purple or maroon on AQI Index), UCSF will make N95 masks available to those employees and learners who request them due to respiratory conditions or sensitivity to smoke when outdoors. N95 masks will be available to those who have UCSF ID badges at the following locations:

Monday through Friday business hours:

  • San Francisco Occupational Health Services
  • San Francisco Student Health Services
  • UCSF Fresno Facilities Services

Evenings and weekends:

  • UC Police Department: Mission Hall or Mission Center Building
  • UCSF Benioff Children’s Oakland Hospital Supervisor

Employees with underlying medical conditions should consult their physicians or Occupational Health Services and students should consult UCSF Student Health and Counseling Services.

Those working inside UCSF Health facilities must continue to follow COVID-19 masking procedures. Voluntary use of N95 masks is not permitted inside UCSF Health hospitals and clinics.

Use N95 masks sparingly in accordance with the section above, since they are no substitute form being indoors and should be prioritized for essential workers. Follow these instructions on N95 use.

Tips to Protect Yourself Against Smoke

The best way to protect yourself from poor air quality on smoky days is to:

  • Stay indoors with doors and windows closed
  • At home, use a HEPA air filter if possible to maintain a clean-air safe room
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water during heavy smoke events
  • Avoid adding air pollution by curtailing wood burning, barbecuing, etc.
  •  Set air conditioning units and care vent systems to re-circulate air to prevent outside air from coming inside
  • Stay informed by signing up for emergency alerts in your local area (i.e. To sign up for AlertSF text your zip code to 888-777 or visit: www.alertsf.org)
  • Check the air quality index (AQI) in their area by visiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow website

 


August 28, 2020

Safety Bulletin: Update #2

UCSF leaders and emergency management teams are monitoring fluctuating air quality to help protect the safety and security of employees, learners and patients.

Air quality in San Francisco and Oakland continues to change based on conditions between moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups, and unhealthy. Active youth, adults, and people with respiratory diseases should avoid prolonged outdoor exertion when at unhealthy levels. Everyone else, especially children, should limit outdoor exertion. Take more breaks during outdoor activities.

Members of the UCSF community are encouraged to check the air quality index (AQI) in their area by visiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow website. This website includes a search box to check air quality by zip code, as well as maps identifying what actions are advised.

This safety bulletin provides guidance from Bay Area Regional Air Quality experts on the following:

  • How to keep yourself and others safe
  • What to do to avoid poor air quality
  • What you should know about N95 respirators and masks

How to Keep Yourself and Others Safe

  • Check on friends, family, and neighbors. Older adults, pregnant individuals, children, and people with respiratory illness are susceptible to elevated air pollution levels and should take precautions to avoid exposure. 

  • Smoke can irritate the eyes and airways, causing cough, a dry scratchy throat, runny nose, trouble breathing, and irritated sinuses. Stay hydrated by drinking water during heavy smoke events. 
  • Avoid adding additional air pollution by curtailing activities such as wood burning, lawn mowing, leaf blowing, driving, barbecuing, smoking, or other dust producing activities. Avoid using hairspray and painting indoors. If possible, use the stove fan when cooking.
  • Sign up for alerts in your area. Local smoke levels can rise and fall rapidly, depending on weather factors, including wind direction. 

What to Do to Avoid Poor Air Quality 

  • Staying indoors with windows and doors closed is the best way to protect your health.
  • Set air conditioning units and car vent systems to re-circulate to prevent outside air from moving inside 
  • Leave the affected area, if possible, for the duration of the heavy smoke event.

What You Should Know about Respirators and Masks

  • The extraordinary circumstances of preventing the spread of COVID-19 require UCSF to prioritize making N95 masks available for health care workers in clinical settings using the guidelines currently in place for COVID-19. N95 masks for wildfire smoke-related purposes are prioritized for those in the following two groups:
    • UCSF employees who work for prolonged periods of time outdoors, and
    • UCSF employees and learners who have underlying medical conditions that make them vulnerable to the effects of wildfire smoke.
  • Supervisors have made N95 masks available to outdoor workers. Those with underlying medical conditions should consult with Occupational Health Services and UCSF Student Health and Counseling Services to request an N95 mask. Please note that due to a limited supply of N95 masks, only one mask will be given per person, per incident. It is important to note that N95 masks are not appropriate for children and that anyone who uses an N95 mask should follow the instructions for their proper use.
  • UCSF Health employees working inside of UCSF Health facilities must continue to follow COVID-19 universal masking procedures. The use of N95 masks in the clinical setting should remain limited to current clinical guidelines as noted on the Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control website.
  • N95 respirators are no substitute for being indoors. If you need to be outdoors, here is what you need to know:
    • N95 respirators may not be helpful for all people and may be dangerous for certain people with lung or heart conditions.
    • Certified N95s are not available for children. Children should not wear these masks; they do not fit children properly and can impede breathing.
    • If you choose to wear an N95 respirator, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for proper fit.
    • Wearing an ill-fitted respirator can lead to a false sense of security and to over exertion.
    • Taking an N95 respirator on and off can cause fine particulate matter to build up in the respirator, which the wearer will breathe when it is put back on the face.
    • Use a new respirator. Old or reused N95 respirators are not effective.
    • N95 masks, even when worn properly, can become uncomfortable and hot.
    • Cloth face coverings and typical surgical masks do nothing to protect against smoke particles.
    • See more information about N95s.

 


August 20, 2020

Safety Bulletin: Update #1

UCSF leaders and emergency management teams are monitoring wildfires across the state and assessing their impact on air quality to help protect the safety and security of employees, learners and patients. 

Members of the UCSF community are encouraged to check the air quality index (AQI) in their area by visiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow website. This website includes a search box to check air quality by zip code, as well as maps identifying what actions are advised.

This bulletin includes the following guidance for the UCSF community: 

  • Actions UCSF is taking in response to changing air quality;
     
  • What you can do to minimize the impact of wildfire smoke and “spare the air” while also complying with public health orders to prevent transmission of COVID-19.

UCSF Guidance for Changing Air Quality Index (AQI) 

AQI UNHEALTHY FOR SENSTIVE GROUPS 101-150: When the AQI levels reach 101, all members of the UCSF community who are sensitive to smoke, such as children and people with respiratory diseases (e.g., asthma), should limit their outdoor exertion and follow guidance from their personal health care providers. 

AQI UNHEALTHY 151-200: When AQI exceeds 151, everyone may experience health effects and should limit prolonged outdoor exertion. Supervisors of UCSF employees who work outdoors should provide alternate indoor activities wherever possible.  

The extraordinary circumstances of preventing the spread of COVID-19 require UCSF to prioritize making N95 masks available for health care workers in clinical settings using the guidelines currently in place for COVID-19. N95 masks for wildfire smoke-related purposes are prioritized for those in the following two groups:

  • UCSF employees who work for prolonged periods of time outdoors, and
  • UCSF employees and learners who have underlying medical conditions that make them vulnerable to the effects of wildfire smoke. 

Supervisors have made N95 masks available to outdoor workers. Those with underlying medical conditions should consult with Occupational Health Services and UCSF Student Health and Counseling Services to request an N95 mask. Please note that due to a limited supply of N95 masks, only one mask will be given per person, per incident. It is important to note that N95 masks are not appropriate for children and that anyone who uses an N95 mask should follow the instructions for their proper use.

UCSF Health Employees: Those working inside of UCSF Health facilities must continue to follow COVID-19 universal masking procedures. The use of N95 masks in the clinical setting should remain limited to current clinical guidelines as noted on the Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control website.

Indoor Air Quality in UCSF Buildings

  • When wildfire smoke results in an AQI of 101 or higher, UCSF will begin limited indoor air quality monitoring. 
  • Please be sure that all windows and exterior doors are kept closed whenever possible for those working or studying onsite. Indoor air may smell smoky because all building ventilation systems will continue to maximize outside air, an industry established guideline to curb the transmission of COVID-19. 
  • Most UCSF buildings have filters that remove particulates, and indoor air quality is expected to be better than outdoors. However, some buildings may still smell smoky when outdoor smoke levels are high. If you have questions or concerns about the indoor air quality in a UCSF building, please contact [email protected]. In Fresno, please contact [email protected].

Evacuations in Wildfire Areas

  • Employees and learners who are being evacuated from their homes in wildfire areas should follow local emergency orders. Those who need additional assistance should contact [email protected]

State of Emergency

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency on August 18 to help ensure the availability of resources to combat the wildfires. Newsom is urging the UC community to reduce energy demands from 3 to 10 p.m.  
  • A Spare the Air alert has been issued through August 23 warning Bay Area communities about unhealthy air quality resulting from wildfires. This alert means it is illegal to burn wood and that everyone is encouraged to conserve energy, know the health effects of unhealthy air, review the AQI and check the weather forecast in their area.

Stay Informed

  • More information about UCSF’s wildfire and air quality response will be updated as soon as possible on this page. 
  • Managers are also receiving information from HR about how to respond to questions and requests from impacted employees. 
  • Sign up for UCSF WarnMe and include your cellphone number for UCSF emergency alerts and notifications. 

Frequently Asked Questions

General

Employees

 


How will UCSF respond to changing air quality?

UCSF monitors air quality information provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Air Quality Index (AQI) and the associated color-coded levels of severity to provide guidance, make decisions and take steps to protect the health of the UCSF community during wildfire events.

Members of the UCSF community are encouraged to check the AQI in their area by visiting the EPA’s AirNow website. This website includes a search box to check air quality by zip code, as well as maps identifying what actions are advised.

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Will UCSF provide N95 respirators to the UCSF community when the AQI is unhealthy?

When AQI exceeds the unhealthy level of 151, everyone may experience health effects and should limit prolonged outdoor exertion. Supervisors of UCSF employees who work outdoors should provide alternate indoor activities wherever possible.

The extraordinary circumstances of preventing the spread of COVID-19 require UCSF to prioritize making N95 masks available for health care workers in clinical settings using the guidelines currently in place for COVID-19. N95 masks for wildfire smoke-related purposes are prioritized for those in the following two groups:

  • UCSF employees who work for prolonged periods of time outdoors, and
  • UCSF employees and learners who have underlying medical conditions that make them vulnerable to the effects of wildfire smoke.

Supervisors will receive N95 respirators by their home department. Those with underlying medical conditions should consult with Occupational Health Services and UCSF Student Health and Counseling Services to request an N95 mask.

Please note that due to a limited supply of N95 masks, only one mask will be given per person, per incident. It is important to note that N95 masks are not appropriate for children and that anyone who uses an N95 mask should follow the instructions for their proper use.

The N95 respirators that UCSF is distributing in response to wildfire smoke are not suitable for use in clinical environments. UCSF Health, School of Dentistry, Buchanan Dental, and Student Health staff will continue to follow standard COVID-19 masking protocols.

UCSF Health employees working inside of UCSF Health facilities must continue to follow COVID-19 masking procedures. The use of N95 masks in the clinical setting should remain limited to current clinical guidelines as noted on the Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control website.

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What if I want to come to work at UCSF to be in air-conditioned facilities where the air quality is better than it is at home?

If you are a campus employee with critical work to perform and are unable to work remotely, please check with your manager to determine whether you can safely come to campus. To ensure UCSF’s facilities can accommodate the increased occupancy, managers should obtain approval from the Emergency Operations Center before allowing employees to work on site at UCSF.

Staff permitted to return to work on campus must comply with all onsite working requirements, including, but not limited to, passing the daily health screening, wearing a face covering and maintaining physical distancing of at least six feet from others. Employees and learners may not come to work if they are sick under any circumstances. More information about returning to campus is available on the COVID-19 website.

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What is the best protection against airborne particulates generated by distant wildfires?

Experts recommend that you minimize the time you spend outdoors, especially doing strenuous outdoor activities. If work must be performed outdoors, N95s (or other similarly rated filtering face-piece respirator) may provide some benefit in minimizing exposure to wildfire smoke particulates.

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What about UCSF employees who work outdoors?

N95 respirators will be made available to outdoor workers by their home department once the AQI exceeds 100.

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The air inside my building at UCSF smells like smoke. Is it safe to breathe?

When the AQI exceeds 100, UCSF will begin spot monitoring indoor air quality.

While the indoor air may smell smoky, the building’s ventilation system is still filtering out harmful particulates. UCSF’s buildings will continue to circulate filtered air in accordance with industry guidelines and regulatory requirements to curb the transmission of COVID-19. This is a departure from typical practice in a wildfire smoke event, when UCSF’s building air ventilation systems are set to recirculate indoor air.

Please be sure that windows and exterior doors are kept closed whenever possible for those faculty, staff and learners working or studying on campus.

If you have questions or concerns about the indoor air quality in your building at UCSF, please contact [email protected].

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What should I do if there is a power outage and I am working from home?

Please visit PG&E’s website to see what steps you can take to reduce the impact of a power outage. Since rotating outages tend to occur in the evening, you may want to start working earlier in the day.

PG&E will have designated Community Resource Centers (CRCs), which will offer device charging, Wi-Fi and other resources.

An exception will be made for you to return to your original place of work if you cannot continue to work remotely due to a power outage. More information for employees and managers is available on HR’s People Connect website.

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What should I do if I am evacuated from my house because my neighborhood is threatened by a wildfire?

Experiencing an evacuation can be very difficult. There are emotional and wellbeing resources that are available to you. In addition, please

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How can I support those impacted by the wildfires?

People impacted by wildfires or other disasters rely on the generosity of members of our community during their time of need. Please consider giving to agencies, such as the American Red Cross, that provide hot meals and comfort kits filled with necessities for those who need them. Please consider donating online at the American Red Cross Wildfire Relief. 

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