The News on Six wanted to find out just how effective ozone alerts are at changing people's behavior and can that behavior be measured? Do people really heed the advice given when told of an ozone alert?
In an interview Monday with the News on Six, Austin, Texas atmospheric chemist Ramon Alvarez says an ozone alert does affect people's behavior. "They do have an effect. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to quantify what the effect is," he said.
Alvarez concedes science can't really measure whether Tulsa's efforts to keep clean pay off. "If I had something to recommend to Tulsa, it's they try to develop employee commute programs such as tele-working from the home or flex schedules. Doing things like taking public transportation or setting up van or carpools to the office. All of these things, if coordinated through the employer, may have a significant impact," said Alvarez.
Williams is just one of more than four hundred Tulsa companies trying to do just that. "This morning, there were a lot of employees in their ozone t-shirts and jeans, coming in at 6:30 am when I come in. I really think people do pay some attention to it," said Sue Burgess, Williams Human Resources. Burgess says half of the Williams Tulsa workforce committed to the company Ozone Alert program. Employees get perks, too. They get to dress casual. They get free rides on the bus and time off. "We encourage people to come in earlier, leave earlier, come in later and stay later and not be on the highways when most of the cars are out there," Burgess noted.
What's at stake? The main thing at stake is the health of the community.
And if Tulsa gets a bad rating, losing federal money and heavy restrictions could be down the road, too. The Department of Environmental Quality uses an eight-hour ozone average to determine whether the city has violated government standards.