SBC Life Articles

Y2K: Why Bother?

Since the release of our interview with Shaunti Feldhahn on Y2K (SBC LIFE, October and November 1998) we have encountered a skeptical response from some. The following excerpts from news clippings and websites represent a sampling of how various civil authorities are approaching Y2K.

Local Governments

Miami-Dade County Y2K Response Planning

Miami-Dade County (Florida) can expect to be affected by Y2K disruptions the same as any other community in the world. The extent of the impact is difficult, if not impossible to predict. It may range from minimal and short-term to significant and long-term. The Y2K Problem has the potential to disrupt urban infrastructures and temporarily disable public utilities such as electric power, water supplies, and sewage. If such disruptions to the infrastructure occurred, it would then lead to disruption in the delivery of … vital goods and services.

From report by Chief Chuck Lanza, director of the Miami-Dade County (Florida) Office of Emergency Management (OEM). As director, he is responsible for overseeing the response of all county departments and agencies to any community threat.

Source: Westergard Year 2000 website, Nov.9, 1998


State Governments

Y2K problem: What's in store for Florida

The Year 2000 computer problem is real and costly and it could cause some temporary disruptions, but it is not going to lead to the end of world, Florida's Year 2000 project manager said Friday.

People need to get ready for system failures, said Glenn W. Mayne, who heads the state's Year 2000 office.

"Somebody is going to have a glitch and we need to be prepared to address that," Mayne told a group of 75 business people at a Year 2000 Computer Crisis Summit in Fort Lauderdale.

A week before Jan. 1, 2000, Florida expects to activate its emergency center to address power outages, loss of telecommunications services and 911 system failures.

The state is also preparing for problems with water, sewer and gas systems, lack of cash in banks and low supplies of food and gasoline, Mayne said.

"By no means do I think you should pack up now and head for the hills of Montana with your family," Mayne said. "Florida is better prepared than most states to handle this crisis."

Source: L.A. Lorek, business writer, Sun-Sentinel South Florida, Oct. 23,1998


State getting ready for computer problem

[Nevada's] Informational Technology Department director guaranteed Monday that the state will have problems with some of its computers at the beginning of the year 2000.

Despite being 91 percent complete in retrofitting to guard against Year 2000 breakdowns, Director Marlene Lockard told the Legislature's Interim Finance Committee that problems are inevitable.

"I think there very definitely will be problems," Lockard said. "An unknown something that didn't get repaired."

Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal, Dec. 15, 1998


National Guard ready to act on eve of 2000
Computers' confusion could endanger safety, experts tell lawmakers

The Wisconsin National Guard is prepared to be mobilized on Dec. 31, 1999, to deal with potential power failures, water system shutdowns and other problems that could occur as computers click over to the year 2000.

And an attorney for a major electric utility said the company is encouraging its customers to look into alternative energy sources, including home generators, in anticipation of power failures as a result of the problem.

After a daylong hearing by an Assembly committee Tuesday on the so-called Y2K problem, it was clear no one really knows what will happen at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1, 2000.

"The only thing we do know is that there will be problems," said Rep. Sheryl Albers (R-Loganville), the chairwoman of the committee. "We don't know what will fail. It could affect a small area or a big area or the entire state."

Mari Nahn, an attorney with Madison-based Alliant Corp.-Wisconsin Power & Light Co., said power failures are likely, as are failures of municipal water systems.

Those problems could include small or widespread power failures, the failure of municipal water or sewage systems and even the failure of security systems at prisons, Albers said.

"I don't want to scare the public, but when we start talking about mobilizing the National Guard, people should realize how serious this is," Albers said.

Source: Amy Rinard, staff writer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Oct. 7, 1998


Federal Government

FEMA urges local committees, emergency services sector and public to get ready now for Y2K

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 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."

"Generally states and the larger local governments are aware of and making some progress toward resolving Y2K issues, however, many smaller local governments as well as some state and territorial governments seem not to be aware of the problem," Walker said. "Clearly the most serious potential for problems is at the local level, and this is what we are concerned about."

Every organization and every individual, in public and private life, has an obligation to learn more about this problem and their vulnerability, so that they may take appropriate action to prevent a problem before it occurs. FEMA is working with the emergency management and fire services communities to raise awareness, to increase preparedness, and to stand ready to provide Federal response assistance to State and local governments, if that is required.

Source: FEMA website, Jan. 6, 1999


The National Guard Bureau – Y2K: The Impact

… Some telecommunications systems may malfunction, possibly impacting emergency 911 operations. Worldwide, transportation systems – air, land and sea travel – may be affected. Reservations systems may malfunction, radar and other safety-related systems may be influenced and radio communications may be impacted. Traffic lights may not operate properly and toll gates may malfunction, causing massive traffic backups. Police and fire emergency response might be affected, as well as electronic life-support equipment in ambulances and hospitals.

We may find ourselves unable to access buildings equipped with electronic security systems, or stranded in high-rise buildings when electronically programmed elevators malfunction. Large segments of our nation's electric power grid could fail, causing massive blackouts. Water distribution systems could fail. Distribution of vital petroleum and natural gas could be hampered if electronically controlled pipelines malfunction. Even our financial well-being might be affected if automated payroll systems malfunction, banks close and ATM cards fail to work.

All of these possibilities, and many more, might affect our lives for months, if not years, into the 21st century. The "Millennium Bug" is a global problem of immense dimension.

Source: National Guard Bureau website, Jan. 11. 1999


Our International Neighbors

Great Britain

Millenium Bug Panic Warning
Start hoarding now government tells families

Britons have been warned to stock up with two weeks' emergency food rations in anticipation of millennium bug-related shortages.

The statement by Gwynneth Flower, head of the Government's millennium bug taskforce Action 2000, is certain to cause severe embarrassment to Labour, which has repeatedly assured the public that food and power supplies will not be affected by computer problems at the turn of the millennium.

Action 2000, however, is advising every household to take sensible precautions against the millennium bug by buying in an extra supply of long-life foodstuffs in the direst warning yet of a potential millennium meltdown.

In an unprecedented statement indicating the level of panic in official circles, the Department of Trade and Industry-funded task force, charged with minimising potential damage caused by the bug, has said that contingency planning for a worst-case scenario should start as soon as possible.

Source: Nicole Veash, The Observer, Dec. 13, 1998



Army fears civil chaos from millennium bug

The Canadian Armed Forces have been ordered to spend the next fourteen months preparing for what could be their biggest peacetime deployment – tens of thousands of troops spread across the country and frigates standing by in major ports – in case computer problems in 2000 bring civil chaos.

Rules for the use of force are being drafted should soldiers have to make arrests or back up police dealing with riots and looting.

No one knows whether a common programming flaw – a seemingly small matter of dealing with dates beyond 1999 – will cause cascading failure in the world's computer systems, knocking out in the dead of a Canadian winter machines that run everything from traffic lights to nuclear reactors. It could turn out to be one of history's great anticlimaxes, but the armed forces are taking no chances.

"There is a potential for disruption of major infrastructure systems … that may require Canadian Forces support to civil authorities," the order begins. The commanders have been given until mid-November to come up with first drafts of plans that will be refined right up to Jan. 1, 2000.

Navy captains have been told their ships may have to be docked to serve as garrisons, power plants, field hospitals and soup kitchens.

Source: Jeff Sallot reporting from Ottawa and John Saunders from Toronto, The Globe, Oct. 27, 1998

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