Despite Efforts, Organizers Say Few Prepared for Y2K Disruption

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — If any community has been taking Y2K preparations seriously, it?s been the coastal California county of San Luis Obispo, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. But even here, organizers worry about a lack of concern.

For the past year, a highly organized group of public safety officials, businesses and volunteers has been distributing pamphlets, issuing public service announcements, giving speeches, organizing seminars and making videos on the opic.

‘We’ve really worked to dispel a lot of the extremes on Y2K, from the doomsayers to the people who think this is all just a lot of hype,’ said John M. Wade, director of information service at the County of San Luis Obispo and member of the San Louis Obispo Y2K Action Alliance, a nonprofit informational organization that distributes local Y2K information and services free of charge to all residents.

Now, with only two months left, Wade said the organization feels it has made strides in reaching out to residents, but only a small percentage of the population is ready should there be computer failures at the turn of the year and services are interrupted.

‘Historically, only 25 percent of the people are prepared for earthquakes around here,’ he said. ‘We’re figuring that’s the percentage that will be ready for any Y2K problems. Apathy is the biggest problem. People are complacent.’

Bill Mueller, a member of the alliance and its web site designer, said that the percentage of people who are ready is probably closer to 3 to 5 percent of the population. ‘Most people have some bottled water, some extra cans of beans, and that’s about it,’ said Mueller, who personally has a 45-day supply of water and canned food for his family of four.

Mueller said information overload may be the problem: ‘If you ask anyone on the street about Y2K, they’re irritated by the question. To them it’s a nonissue: They think they are already prepared,’ he said.

Mueller said while most organizations, including the alliance, have focused on contingency plans for lives and property for 3 to 5 days, very little has been done to prepare people for long-term consequences of Y2K, such as soaring gas prices, water contamination and legal problems.

‘Everything points to a gas problem of some kind in the next year,’ he said. ‘I don’t think people — with their SUVs — are ready for that.’

Contacts: John M. Wade, director of information services, County of San Luis Obispo, Calif., 805-781-5051; web site: Bill Mueller, web development and consultant, the San Louis Obispo County Y2K Action Alliance, 805-528-2964.

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