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Brochure on Y2K preparedness issued by American Red Cross

WASHINGTON (BP)–The American Red Cross, in its disaster preparedness role, has issued a brochure on the “Y2K” computer disruptions that may occur as the year 2000 arrives.
Available from local American Red Cross chapters, the brochure does not sound an alarmist tone, but it gives an overview of possible Y2K problems that may arise across the country and lists 11 areas of preparedness that individuals and families can take.
“Because no one can be certain about the effects of the Y2K problem, the American Red Cross has developed the following checklist for you,” the brochure states. “These are some easy steps you can take to prepare for possible disruptions. All of these recommendations make good sense, regardless of the potential problem.”
Such steps are important for readiness for disasters such as a tornado or hurricane, a Red Cross spokesman told Baptist Press Jan. 7.
Bill Merrell, vice president for convention relations with the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, described the American Red Cross as “one of the premiere helping agencies in America, having dealt with more natural calamities and crises than any other organization in our history. It is extremely significant that it has decided to issue this information.”
Merrell said concerning the Y2K problem, “…there are two ditches into which one could fall — the first is to be agitated, full of dread and panic-stricken. The other is to take an indifferent and apathetic attitude. It seems wise to avoid either of these approaches.
“In our view, it is crucial that Christians be prepared, not panicked, about the Y2K situation,” Merrell continued. “Disruptions in service and delivery are possible, if not certain. Making preparation for one’s own needs and for others who are unable to prepare in advance may enable Christians to minister effectively under what could be very difficult circumstances.”
Possible areas of disruption, according to information the American Red Cross brochure relays from White House and Senate studies, involve utilities and the national power grid; banking and finance; health care; transportation; telecommunications; pensions and mutual funds; emergency planning; and general business.
“No one knows what problems may occur, how widespread they may be, or how long they will last,” the brochure states. “The good news is that federal, state, and local governments; banks and other financial institutions; retail businesses, and every other group affected by this problem have been working to resolve it, and a great deal of progress has been made.”
The brochure also states: “Most people anticipate Y2K problems may happen Dec. 31, 1999, at midnight. Many experts predict that the problem is more likely to be a persistent one over a few years rather than a single ‘crash.’
At the core of the problem, the brochure states, are computer programs that may not be able to operate properly when the year 2000 begins. The trouble stems from programming practices from years ago that did not factor in the turn of the century.
“For example, in some areas, electrical power may be unavailable for some time,” the Red Cross brochures states. “Manufacturing and production industries may be disrupted. Roads may be closed or gridlocked if traffic signals are disrupted. Electronic credit card transactions may not be processed. Telephone systems may not work.”
Among the American Red Cross’ 11 suggestions:
— “Check with manufacturers of any essential computer-controlled electronic equipment in your home to see if that equipment may be affected. This includes fire and security alarm systems, programmable thermostats, appliances, consumer electronics, garage door openers, electronic locks, and any other electronic equipment in which an ’embedded chip’ may control its operation.”
— “Stock disaster supplies to last several days to a week for yourself and those who live with you. This includes having nonperishable foods, stored water and an ample supply of prescription and nonprescription medications that you regularly use. The Red Cross doesn’t recommend hoarding supplies. …”
— “Have some extra cash on hand in case computer-controlled electronic transactions involving ATM cards, credit cards, and the like cannot be processed. Plan to keep cash in a safe place, and withdraw money from your bank in small amounts well in advance of 12/31/99 to avoid long lines at the bank at the last minute.”
— “Plan to fill your automobile gas tank a day or so before 12/31/99.”
— “Have extra blankets, coats, hats, and gloves to keep warm. Please do not plan to use gas-fueled appliances, like an oven, as an alternative heating source. The same goes for wood-burning or liquid-fueled heating devices that are not designed to be used in a residential structure. Camp stoves and heaters should only be used out of doors in a well-ventilated area. If you do purchase an alternative heating device, make sure it is approved for use indoors and is listed with the Underwriters Laboratories.”
— “Have plenty of flashlights and extra batteries on hand. Don’t use candles for emergency lighting.”
— “Be prepared to relocate to a shelter for warmth and protection during a prolonged power outage or if for any other reason local officials request or require that you leave your home. Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for information about where shelters will be available.”
— “Check with the emergency services providers in your community to see if there is more information available about how your community is preparing for any potential problems. Be an advocate and support efforts by your local police, fire, and emergency management officials to ensure that their systems will be able to operate at all times.”
The brochure also advises families to examine their smoke alarms. “If you have smoke alarms that are hard-wired into your home’s electrical system (most newer ones are), check to see if they have battery back-ups,” the brochure states. “Every fall, replace all batteries in all smoke alarms as a general fire safety precaution.
Finally, it advises that alternative cooking devices be used “in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions. Don’t use open flames or charcoal grills indoors. … If you plan to use a portable generator, connect what you want to power directly to the generator; do not connect the generator to your home’s electrical system. Also, be sure to keep a generator in a well-ventilated area — either outside or in a garage, keeping the door open. Don’t put a generator in your basement or anywhere inside your home.”
Robert E. “Bob” Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board, which coordinates national disaster response by Southern Baptists, encouraged Christians to gain a better understanding of opportunities the Y2K problem may give local churches for ministering to human needs and sharing the gospel.
“What we don’t need are knee-jerk reactions to Y2K,” Reccord said. “But, if Christians are prepared, as Joseph prepared Egypt, we can be salt and light to virtually every community in North America. Churches and Christians must understand and prepare for opportunities in their cities, towns, neighborhoods and families.”
More extensive Y2K precautions are found in other resources, such as the books, “Y2K: The Millennium Bug — A Balanced Christian Response” by Shaunti Feldhahn, published by Multnomah Publishers, and “Y2K: How to Survive the Coming Chaos” by Michael Hyatt, published by Thomas Nelson, and the Internet site of The Cassandra Project nonprofit organization, cassandraproject.org/home.html.
The books by Feldhahn and Hyatt also encourage Christians to use the Y2K disruptions as opportunities for witness and ministry to non-Christians who need help as they face the turn-of-the-century uncertainties and any crises that may arise. Such encouragement also is an integral part of Y2K sections of the Internet sites of the Christian Broadcasting Network, www.cbn.org/y2k/index.asp, and of well-known Christian financial expert Larry Burkett, cfcministry.org.