San Francisco, CA – Mayor London N. Breed announced a new program led by the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management (DEM) that will provide air filtration and air conditioning equipment to 90 community-based organizations across the City today at a press conference with elected officials and City leaders at the Boys & Girls Club of San Francisco’s Columbia Park Clubhouse. The equipment will mitigate the negative impacts of heat and poor air quality while keeping clients and staff comfortable, safe, and healthy during extreme weather events.
Organizations were invited to apply for the first-of-its-kind Extreme Weather Resilience Program (EWRP) last winter, with nearly 200 locations submitting applications. 90 different locations from 39 organizations including Self-Help for the Elderly, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, YMCA, Chinatown Community Development Center Affordable Housing, and Wu Yee Children’s Services, were selected for the program’s initial phase. Organizations serving populations vulnerable to extreme weather in San Francisco were eligible to apply, and applicants were prioritized for selection based on the populations they serve, services provided, the accessibility of those services, and the geographic location of their locations as identified by environmental justice and equity maps.
“As climate change tests San Francisco’s capacity to adapt to new hazards, we will continue to protect our most vulnerable community members through initiatives like the Extreme Weather Resilience Program,” said Mayor London Breed. “The current wildfires impacting our air quality this week are a critical reminder for why we must continue to invest in these measures. We continue to be faced with significant wildfire smoke and heat waves that are posing public health risks that are undeniable, and with this equipment, we can ensure continuity of operations for critical community serving organizations across the City.”
Each location selected in this pilot phase of the EWRP is eligible to receive one portable air conditioning unit with cooling capacity up to 450 square feet and two portable air purifier units: one with filter capacity up to 2,090 square feet and one with capacity up to 4,500 square feet. Additionally, DEM will provide five years of filter replacements for all air purifiers distributed through the EWRP. This equipment is funded by a combination of local, regional, and state sources, including a grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Distribution of equipment began earlier this month and is anticipated to be completed by the end of December 2023.
The EWRP draws on best practices derived from the San Francisco Heat and Air Quality Resilience (HAQR) Plan, the City’s first comprehensive plan to address the impacts of extreme heat and wildfire smoke, which was released earlier this summer. The strategies outlined in the plan help identify roles, responsibilities, resources, and best practices necessary to adapt, mitigate risks, and withstand these extreme climate events. The HAQR Plan identifies medium- to long-term strategies, ranging from community resilience to green infrastructure projects, to help San Francisco adapt its buildings, infrastructure, services, and environment for current and future heat waves and air quality events.
“We know how important it is for community members to have familiar and comfortable places to go during extreme weather events,” said Executive Director Mary Ellen Carroll, Department of Emergency Management. “This program provides essential equipment so facilities can keep their doors open and continue supporting their communities during extreme heat or poor air quality. Meeting people where they are through the EWRP means that many San Franciscans will no longer have to choose between clean or cool air and being somewhere they feel safe.”
“While everyone experiences the effects of climate change and extreme weather, we know that some communities feel these impacts more because of our built environment and other factors. This program is an integral part of our efforts to reduce exposure to extreme heat and wildfire smoke, adapt our buildings and surrounding environment, and support the well-being of frontline communities,” said City Administrator Carmen Chu, whose office led coordination of the HAQR Plan with DEM and the San Francisco Department of Public Health. "I want to thank DEM and our community partners for working diligently to help make San Francisco more resilient to climate-related stressors."
“Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco's Columbia Park Clubhouse is a valuable resource for families in the area, and I appreciate the Department of Emergency Management’s proactive efforts to provide this community space with the equipment necessary to endure extreme weather,” said District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman.
During the press conference today, DEM reiterated the importance of proper air quality and air conditioning equipment.
“Drawing on over 130 years of experience as a critical resource for our city, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco continuously innovates and evolves to address the changing needs of youth and families,” said Rob Connolly, President, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco. “We are grateful to the Department of Emergency Management for recognizing the essential services we provide and for bringing new technology to our Clubs that directly supports our commitment to prioritizing youth safety and health at all times.”
As San Francisco and the Bay Area region continues to deal with extreme heat and wildfire smoke, various public health hazards remain high for San Francisco, especially within underserved and vulnerable communities. Many city buildings and infrastructure are developed for cool coastal temperatures and are not equipped to handle the dramatic increase to climate change impacting the region.
San Francisco has the lowest rate of air conditioning anywhere in the country. Evidence suggests that San Francisco’s emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths begin to increase when the temperature reaches above 85 degrees.
“Heat-related and air quality illnesses are preventable. Population groups who are at greater risk of heat-related health impacts include unhoused people, older adults and children,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of Health. “This city-wide effort will keep heat-sensitive groups safe during extreme heat. Preparing for extreme heat and air quality emergencies helps avoid the biggest health dangers, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.”
While these actions protect the City’s most vulnerable and help us adapt to a changing climate, Mayor Breed’s Climate Action Plan is also playing a part in staving off the worst of climate change by taking concrete steps to switch to 100% renewable energy and ensure our buildings and transportation networks are all-electric. With a goal of being a net-zero City by 2040, San Francisco’s actions continue to reduce emissions and serve as a model for other cities and counties that want to do their part and help save the world’s environment.
“We can stop the climate crisis, but we must act now. The Extreme Weather Resilience Program partners with our community organizations to shield our most vulnerable communities from heat and smoke. This program is not only a lifesaver, but also a game-changer,” said Tyrone Jue, Director, San Francisco Environment Department.
As poor air quality and extreme heat events become more frequent, DEM urges San Francisco residents to sign up for AlertSF, San Francisco’s emergency notification system, by texting their zip code to 888-777. AlertSF sends alerts and instructions during emergencies including poor air quality and extreme heat events.