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Find out what's happening in the blog. Below is a list of blog items.

Sep 07

Build COVID-19 preparedness into your emergency kit

Posted to Menlo Park COVID-19 Updates by Clay Curtin

September is National Preparedness Month and this year’s reminder includes updated recommendations to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the aftermath of a disaster. 

After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. Being prepared means having your own food, water and other supplies to last for several days. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.

Make sure your emergency kit is stocked with the items on the checklist below. Most of the items are inexpensive and easy to find and any one of them could save your life. Headed to the store? Download a printable version to take with you. Once you take a look at the basic items consider what unique needs your family might have, such as supplies for pets or seniors.

Basic disaster supplies kit
To assemble your kit store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.

A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:
  • Water (one gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation)
  • Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle (to signal for help)
  • Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
  • Manual can opener (for food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
  • Download the Recommended Supplies List
Additional emergency supplies
Since Spring 2020, the CDC has recommended people include additional items in their kits to help prevent the spread of coronavirus or other viruses and the flu.

Consider adding the following items to your emergency supply kit based on your individual needs:
  • Cloth face coverings (for everyone ages 2 and above), soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes to disinfect surfaces
  • Prescription medications
  • Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
  • Prescription eyeglasses and contact lens solution
  • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler's checks
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
  • Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
Maintaining your kit
After assembling your kit remember to maintain it so it is ready when needed:
  • Keep canned food in a cool, dry place.
  • Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers.
  • Replace expired items as needed.
  • Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.
Kit storage locations
Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work and cars.
  • Home: Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.
  • Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Your work kit should include food, water and other necessities like medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes, stored in a “grab and go” case.
  • Car: In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car.
Feb 05

Community discusses new safe routes project near La Entrada Middle School

Posted to Menlo Park Transportation News by Clay Curtin

On January 15, the City held a meeting at La Entrada Middle School to present design concepts for the Sharon Road Sidewalk project. The project proposes safer access to La Entrada Middle School with a new pathway on the north side of Sharon Road from Alameda de las Pulgas to Altschul Avenue.

The existing site is partially paved and lacks a continuous accessible walking path. This presents a challenge for pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles navigating the area. Additionally, rain creates large puddles next to the street, which forces pedestrians into the travel lane. Over 30 people, including residents and middle school parents, learned more about the project and how it could improve public safety and connection to the school. The City presented renderings and plans of the following design concepts:
  • General improvements
    • Mitigate ponding by eliminating low-points and installing gutters to the storm drain
    • Install curb ramps and a connecting walkway at Sharon Road and Altschul Avenue
    • Sharrow markings for shared bicycle and vehicle lanes along Sharon Road
  • Pathway Option 1 – Concrete sidewalk
    This option consists of a raised concrete curb, gutter and sidewalk, which would remove parking on the north side of Sharon Road. The elevated curb and color of the sidewalk may act as a barrier to traffic. The concrete sidewalk could also affect street width perception for drivers, and thus reduce traffic speed.
  • Pathway Option 2 – Asphalt walkway
    This option consists of a new asphalt walkway and valley gutter at street level. The concrete valley gutter would act as a separation between the asphalt walkway and the street, possibly allowing for time-restricted parking beyond school hours where there is available width.
The advantages and disadvantages of these preliminary designs were discussed. Participants shared input on pedestrian/bicycle safety, school travel, ADA compliance, parking removal and drainage. The City will continue to collect feedback through the public outreach phase before pursuing next steps. 

Submit your questions or comments.

For more information, please visit the project website at

Parents and children walk to school in wet street
Sep 22

Air quality data sources explained: Why different sites show different readings

Posted to Menlo Park Updates by Clay Curtin

From the Bay Area Air Quality Management District:

For the past month, Bay Area residents have been living through the longest streak of poor air quality in history, which began with the dry lightning storm August 17 that sparked 367 fires in the greater Bay Area. Now massive fires in Oregon and Washington are adding smoke to our already saturated skies. Access to accurate air quality data is crucial to protecting ourselves from wildfire smoke, particularly in these times of the pandemic when our respiratory health is even more crucial. 

Some may have noticed that a significant variation in readings can be found between different websites with air quality information, including the Air District site, AirNow Fire and Smoke Map, and sensor-specific websites like the PurpleAir map. 

Which site is the most accurate and why are they so different? 
The Air District air quality map sources data from our 17 stationary PM2.5 monitors, sited based on specific Environmental Protection Agency requirements driven by population density, meteorology, topography and nearby pollution sources, and operated and maintained consistently. The Air District’s PM2.5 monitors collect a sample for 50 to 52 minutes, which is then analyzed for eight minutes. Preliminary data quality checks are also performed before it is shown on the website. For instance, the 9 a.m. measurement reflects data gathered between 9 and 10 a.m. Data are displayed in  standard time, not daylight saving time, so it appears to have an extra hour lag time, so that the 9 a.m. PST data point reflects data gathered between 10 and 11 a.m. PDT. 

However, in areas where there is not a nearby Air District site, a denser network of low-cost sensors can provide helpful information as well. Low-cost PM sensors typically use a laser to count particles in the air and are not as accurate and typically read higher than the Air District’s monitors, especially during wildfire smoke episodes. 

These low-cost sensors are not only susceptible to differences in how each user deploys or maintains them, but also each sensor can have different responses to the same levels of PM due to changes in humidity, temperature and the type of particulate matter in the air (wildfire smoke versus typical PM pollution). Even so, while the exact level of air pollution shown might not be as accurate, the density of data means they can provide a different type of information about real-time air quality on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.

For example, they can tell us how the air quality is changing throughout the day or from place to place (i.e., Are concentrations generally increasing or decreasing? Is my neighborhood being impacted by wildfire smoke?) This can be especially valuable when air quality is bad and highly variable, like during a wildfire smoke event. 

Some low-cost sensor manufacturers provide their own maps that show the air quality readings of all publicly available sensors. The PurpleAir map only shows data from low-cost PurpleAir sensors and readings are updated every 10 minutes. This map gives the user the option to select different time averages or data correction factors. 

Similarly, Clarity OpenMap shows hourly average data from Clarity sensors, but with different data processing and additional calculations to compensate for inaccuracies in the sensors. The Clarity OpenMap also uses the same conversion from concentration to AQI as the Air District and AirNow websites. Data are collected on 5 to 15-minute intervals, a site-specific correction factor is used to adjust the data, and then the data are posted to the website map on an hourly basis.

Further information on PurpleAir and Clarity sensor data can be found at the PurpleAir FAQ and the Clarity blog. Data from the PurpleAir or Clarity sensors should always be viewed cautiously and in conjunction with the Air District’s stationary monitors.

AirNow Fire and Smoke Map displays hourly PM2.5 data nationally from stationary and temporary monitors deployed by regulatory agencies, as well as low-cost sensors from PurpleAir. The PurpleAir data are adjusted by an algorithm that compensates for some of the inaccuracies of these sensors. Data are updated hourly and has the highest density of data points due to the additional data from the low-cost monitors, which fills in the geographic gaps between stationary monitor locations. The map’s user guide contains very helpful information on how to understand and use the map.

The AirNow Fire and Smoke Map can be particularly helpful since it displays data from the Air District’s monitors, California Air Resources Board temporary monitors and PurpleAir sensors on one map. However, the other websites can be useful backup resources under certain circumstances.