Desperately seeking a breath of fresh air


As I write, I’ve been sequestered in the house due to poor air quality from the tragic Camp Fire in Butte County, California. Despite being three hours away, the effects are impacting San Francisco and the greater Bay Area. The sunrise has been a beautiful yet haunting smoky orange.

Daily warnings of unhealthy air – a reading that have risen from orange to red to purple (!) according to the EPA’s Air Quality Index – keep people like myself inside and unable to engage in regular daily activities. While it’s frustrating as heck to be unable to pop out to run a quick errand down the street, go for swim (the pool at the gym has been closed), and work with certain clients (cancellations abound due to poor air and unexpected school closures), there are benefits to this interruption of the regular program.

One such plus is being forced to embrace the great indoors as one does in places where it might snow a lot or where it’s just too hot and humid to poke ones head out the door. The mandatory slow down is akin to a bonus bunch of sick days without being sick! Another plus comes from welcoming the things one puts off for a rainy (in this case smoky) day to come to the fore: reading, getting to that well-intentioned craft project, spontaneous baking, decluttering (ahem…just clearing my throat), or sifting through a pile of unopened mail. There’s also plenty of time to think about emergency preparedness and the upcoming holiday season.

Climate change is making me rethink gift giving in this time of catastrophic disasters. While I’m all for the experiential, non-material gift options, unnecessary extraction of resources, and excessive shipping, it occurs to me that the holidays are a perfect time to recommend buying loved ones things that really show how much you care. As we step into a new normal in California and elsewhere around the globe, this is another piece of preparedness planning to stop thinking about and take action on. This is also one of the rare times I’ll encourage you to shop for something new.

So for the first time ever, my top recommendations of what to buy for those you love. (Note: Search keywords in italics online to research the best options based on your criteria, budget, and location.)

  • Give the gift of fresh air! How about choosing an air cleaning device from this exhaustive list compiled by the California Air Resources Board. Depending on the model, they are helpful during allergy, fire, and cold/flu season.
  • Give the gift of protected lungs! Lung safety is something to think about for any emergency or travel kit. I bet visitors to San Francisco this week weren’t prepared to experience unbreathable air. Options abound with N-95 and N100 respirators*. I’m adding a reusable option to my packing list!
  • Give the gift of light! Light their way naturally with a solar powered lantern*. No batteries required. Just add sunlight to recharge it!
  • Give the gift of power! Know someone who is always looking to recharge their cellphone? A charging cable for a car or a portable charger* may be the answer they didn’t know they were hoping for.
  • Give the gift of clean water! In any emergency, drinkable water is vital to survival. A small portable water purification system* is a MUST!

Emergency preparedness is an unsexy necessity everyone needs to make room for in their lives.  Emergencies of all kinds, shapes, and sizes – from power outages or water main breaks, to tornadoes or earthquakes and everything in between – can and will alter the course of normal at a moment’s notice. In addition to the items mentioned above, checklists, plan-making recommendations, and a plethora of information can be found on the following sites:

  • provides preparedness and public information a la FEMA
  • is a fabulous preparedness resource from the city and county of San Francisco
  • NERT (Neighborhood Emergency Response Training) is free preparedness training for residents taught by members of the San Francisco Fire Department. For those outside these 49 square miles, contact your local volunteer CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) program. Get involved and get educated!

Check with your local municipality or county for their recommendations, too!

While I go with the required flow of the momentary change of pace, I look forward with great enthusiasm to the return of blue skies and thick foggy clean air. Karl the Fog, please come home!


Debra Baida is the owner of Liberated Spaces.