Relying on federal, state and local governments, which may or may not be prepared, is not an option, said Andy van Roon, a member of the community group PREP 2000, which stands for Promoting Responsible Emergency Preparedness.
'It's too late in the Y2K curve to do anything at this point but organize clear, simple, effective plans of action to distribute practical information to the American public about how to prepare for whatever may occur,' said van Roon, a filmmaker who has produced a documentary, 'The Y2K Family Survival Guide,' hosted by Leonard Nimoy. 'I think the bottom line is that we, the people, need to take it to the rest of the people regarding Y2K awareness and preparation.'
The Y2K phenomenon is essentially an electronic glitch -- the result of software written to recognize years in only two digits. So on Jan. 1, 2000, some software will read it as 1/1/00, which the computer may interpret as 1900. If software isn't reprogrammed correctly, some computer systems may crash, possibly affecting utilities, retailers, financial institutions and government entities.
PREP 2000's plan of action is a Sept. 9 all-day town meeting in Nashville.
'The basic idea is to invite a couple hundred civic leaders, mayors from surrounding towns, groups like the Sertoma Club, church leaders and anyone who has a constituency,' said van Roon.
A simple Y2K Prep Sheet, which outlines steps on preparing for millennium glitches, will be distributed at of the town meeting.
'A lot of it is similar to what the Red Cross is putting out, like collecting food, water, alternate sources of heat and light and how to handle sanitation,' said Nell Levin, who heads up PREP 2000.
Leaders attending the town meeting will be given the prep sheets and encouraged to copy them, hold their own meetings for their respective constituencies and pass the sheets out en masse, van Roon said.
'It's kind of a spiraling network,' Levin said.
'This model could easily work around the country over the next several months,' van Roon said. 'We need to take the information directly to the people all across this country via a simple strategy to distribute easy-to-understand Y2K prep material that can be replicated and redisbursed via individuals, families and community groups.'
The idea is simple, but it encourages and shows households exactly how to prepare, he said.
'People are making (Y2K) needlessly complex,' van Roon said. 'If they just get ready in the basics -- food, water, shelter and medicine -- everybody will be okay.'
The Prep Sheet's guidelines will suggest simple, oft-advised preparations on storing at least two week's worth of food, stockpiling one gallon of water per person per day, getting alternative heat and light sources such as kerosene stoves and lanterns and having adequate prescription medications, Levin said.
'We are not going to reinvent the wheel,' Levin said. 'These are just basic preparations.'
The prep sheets will illustrate how neighborhoods can analyze resources so everyone benefits, Levin said. 'It's kind of inventorying what is going on in the immediate neighborhood so everyone can pull together in a time of crisis,' she said.
For example, someone who owns a chain saw can make it available to others or an elderly or disabled neighbor may need extra attention, she explained.
As simple as the guidelines are, most people Levin and van Roon have encountered have made no Y2K preparations.
'The biggest problem we've encountered is folks just are not hip to it,' van Roon said. 'The real challenge is, most of the American public, though they've been exposed to this term Y2K, they have not paid a lot of attention to it.'
But things are slowly changing as Jan. 1 draws near, Levin said.
'It's starting to get on the radar screen for some,' she said. 'I think come September and November, things are going to get pretty crazy.'
But PREP 2000 will remain active throughout, Levin said.
'We see our role as pushing from the bottom up to get people to do something about Y2K,' Levin said. 'We see ourselves as a watchdog grassroots organization looking out for the common citizens in Nashville.'
Contacts: Andy van Roon, member, PREP 2000 (Promoting Responsible Emergency Preparedness), Nashville, Tenn., 615-851-1711. Nell Levin, organizer, PREP 2000, Nashville, Tenn., 615-329-9331.
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