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METRO NEWS

Smog Alerts to Be Issued by Pagers in Test Program

November 18, 1998|BOB POOL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

That beep, beep, beep you hear on your pager could soon mean cough, cough, cough.

Air quality officials said Tuesday that they plan to issue smog alerts over personal pagers to warn Los Angeles-area residents to stay indoors when the air is dirty.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District will team up with several paging services in a seven-month pilot program starting in January to determine if the alert system is useful for athletic coaches, joggers and those with chronic respiratory problems.

Free alphanumeric pagers will be loaned to about 50 volunteers scattered around Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties for the test.

If the pilot program is a success, the service will be offered for a monthly fee to pager users.

Nick Munoz, a manager for the Metrocall pager service, said the reports would probably cost about $7.95 per month, about the same as sports score services.

Under the program, messages announcing areas where stage 1 smog alerts have been issued will be flashed automatically to the pagers.

Although air quality has improved in recent years in the Los Angeles area, 12 first-stage alerts were issued during the last summer, officials said.

The pager alert system was proposed by air quality board members from the Inland Empire, where smog alerts are the most common, said Bill Kelly, a district spokesman.

Kelly said youth coaches, recreation leaders and others can participate in the test by calling the district at (909) 396-3196.

In the past, he said, his agency used a radio system to alert schools to restrict children's outdoor activities on smoggy days. But the radios were unreliable and a telephoned fax service that sends smog forecasts was substituted in the early 1990s.

Pager services participating in the tests include Pacific Bell Mobile Services, PageNet, Prime Matrix Wireless, L.A. Cellular and Metrocall, said Francis Goh, who will oversee the program for the air quality agency.

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