News Articles

Y2K discussion heating up as countdown to 2000 begins

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–From Jerry Falwell to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to The New York Times and USA Today, discussion of the “Y2K” potential computer crisis is picking up.
Among recent media reports and other developments concerning possible computer disruptions that may affect the nation and the world at the end of this year:
— Falwell, in “The Falwell Fax” he distributes weekly, noted in his Nov. 20 edition: “I continue to believe, based on personal conversations with influential economic, banking and computer experts, that our nation will face minimal Y2K problems come January 1, 2000.”
Even so, Falwell said several key economic leaders had told him “that America could face up to two weeks of problems in the national power grid as a result of Y2K’s influence. This could mean blackouts or brownouts in many cities nationwide. To alleviate the potential problems this could bring, families should be considering a reserve of water and food that would last two to three weeks — just in case this scenario comes to pass. Additionally, families should be considering alternative means of energy, including the purchase of a generator and a buildup of wood for fireplaces or wood-burning stoves.”
Falwell noted the leaders “told me that consumer panic could have a far greater impact on our nation’s economic balance than anything Y2K can inflict on us.”
Falwell said he is planning “an expansive Y2K preparedness meeting in Washington, D.C., [in early 1999] specifically for the nation’s pastors and church leaders,” who in turn “will then go home to educate their congregations.”
— The Federal Emergency Management Agency, in a Jan. 6 news release, said its officials “are urging the emergency management, fire and emergency services communities and the public to get ready now for Y2K.”
“It is very important that counties, municipalities, school districts and other organizations that have not yet begun to work on Y2K issues, start now,” FEMA deputy director Mike Walker said. “While some failures will be minor annoyances, some may have more serious consequences.”
A recent FEMA survey of state emergency management directors concerning Y2K issues at the state and local levels, according to the news release, found that “although Y2K fixes are well under way in state-level emergency preparedness offices, the emergency service systems of many counties and municipalities remain untested.”
“Generally states and the larger local governments are aware of and making some progress toward resolving Y2K issues,” Walker said, “however, many smaller local governments as well as some state and territorial governments seem not to be aware of the problem. Clearly the most serious potential for problems is at the local level, and this is what we are concerned about.”
In February and March, FEMA will conduct “Y2K Consequence Management” workshops around the country to identify critical issues, assess vulnerabilities, review contingency plans and consider policies and decisions that need to be taken to deal with possible Y2K consequences. Participants will include state Y2K emergency coordinators, emergency managers and state fire marshals.
The FEMA news release also reported, “Many states also reported that they have not developed contingency plans specifically for Y2K problems; instead they plan to address problems under existing emergency plans or they expect to have their systems Y2K compliant in time. Most states expressed some level of concern over the possibility of power failures, especially where power is provided by smaller utilities. Other areas of concern cited by the states include limited or lack of resources to assess, test and validate systems and fixes for Y2K problems.”
— The New York Times and USA Today carried front-page stories on Y2K, Dec. 27 in The Times and Dec. 31 in USA Today.
The Federal Reserve has announced it will print an extra $50 billion in currency for the end of 1999, The Times reported, as have other media. Toward the end of the year “the retail public is going to panic and want cash, and we better have it for them,” David Iacino, head of BankBoston’s year 2000 program, was quoted as saying.
USA Today, meanwhile, reported 34 percent of Americans expect “major problems” in 2000 — down from 45 percent in June — according to polling the newspaper had undertaken with the National Science Foundation, with 61 percent saying they expect no problems or only minor problems. Among other findings: 26 percent of those surveyed said they intend to stockpile food, 31 percent intend to set aside a large amount of cash; and half said they will not fly on or around Jan. 1, 2000. The most recent polling, of 1,032 adults from Dec. 9-13, has a margin of error of 3 percent, USA Today said.
(An American Red Cross poll in 1997 found only one in seven Americans describing themselves as “very prepared” for a disaster; 83 percent said they keep essential supplies in various places around their home, greatly reducing their accessibility in an emergency, while 31 percent did not know when to turn off electrical power and other utilities in case of emergency.)
Various media, meanwhile, have carried reports that Social Security and Internal Revenue Service payment systems are Y2K-ready. A USA Today story on Dec. 28, meanwhile, reported that the Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Defense and State Department were among the federal agencies “lagging farthest behind” in Y2K computer fixes, while the Small Business Administration and Department of Veteran Affairs were described as in “good shape.”
— InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has postponed its highly attended Urbana missions conference for college students for a year, from Dec. 27-31, 1999, to the same dates in the year 2000. The conference traditionally has been held every three years, drawing about 20,000 students and others. According to a report in Religion News Service, “Ministry officials cited several reasons, including ‘many unknown variables’ concerning the Y2K computer glitch and the decision by the person coordinating travel to the event to pull out of her contract because she couldn’t assure quality service.”
— The Assemblies of God General Council’s board of administration adopted a statement Oct. 14 noting, “The leadership of the Assemblies of God cautions the body of Christ to use wisdom in the matters related to the Y2K problem. Needless fear and alarmist tactics over the Y2K issue and the approaching turn of the millennium are directly in conflict with the teaching of our Lord Himself … .” The board then cited Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34, which begin, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” and later exhort, “But seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well.”
The Assemblies of God board further stated, “… we encourage our people to not engage in activities such as hoarding food, withdrawing money from banks, believing doomsday scenarios, or expecting the economic, political, and social collapse of western civilization when the clock strikes January 1, 2000.
“Instead the body of Christ should place its focus upon sharing our faith with those whose hearts are fearful about the future. In these hours when the world is filled with uncertainty, we have the message of hope from our Lord who has taught us to ‘Fear not.’ Rather than fearing the collapse of computers or society, the Scriptures call upon us to fear God’s wrath. The good news is that God’s wrath need never be experienced when we place our trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord.”