'We are ready to go,' said David Goodwyn, founder of the Acadiana Y2K Awareness Group.
Goodwyn is confident even in the face of a September 7 report by the federal Department of Energy naming the Lafayette Utilities System as one of 12 electric utilities around the country not ready for the Year 2000.
The report assessed Y2K readiness around the country, but Goodwyn said citizens should not rely on federal officials and should actively investigate and participate in local emergency preparation plans.
'It?s imperative that if someone is concerned, they should call their local utility providers,? he said. ?Don?t rely on someone who is in (Washington) D.C. to tell you what?s going on in your community.'
Acadiana group members have been in regular communication with utility officials and other service providers for about a year, he said, and have found backup plans, manual controls and communications are in place. These steps have made Jan. 1 seem less ominous.
Goodwyn hasn't always felt so confident about his town's ability to cope with problems that the millennium bug might cause.
When he traveled to Chicago in June 1998 to attend his first Y2K convention, which included a cross section of Fortune 500 executives, foreign diplomats and members of Congress, his first reaction was fear. 'I got scared to death, to be honest,' he said.
But determination quickly replaced the anxiety. 'I decided I was going to go home and find out what was going on there and make an effort to get the word out, so we did,' he said.
A committee was formed within a few months and targeted Acadiana, a region consisting of eight parishes, or counties, around Lafayette. The group quickly involved churches to get a neighbor-to-neighbor movement going. Members gathered information from community officials about Y2K readiness and spread the word about how to prepare, Goodwyn said.
Most residents were willing to listen because they're accustomed to potential disasters -- which some fear the millennium may bring. 'It's easy to talk about preparations around here because we're so used to hurricanes,' Goodwyn said. 'When you tie Y2K into a hurricane, the light bulb goes off.'
But the Y2K group says its most notable accomplishment was a successful fight to keep Louisiana legislators from adopting a law that would have left citizens unprotected by absolving the state, its cities, counties and parishes of any responsibility for Y2K-related problems.
'I thought that debatable,' Goodwyn said. 'I took the time to find out what was going on in smaller towns and I knew they were not doing what they needed to do.' The legislation would have given them immunity before they had done anything -- or nothing -- to prepare, he said.
Goodwyn's Y2K group proposed its own legislation, which ultimately ended up as an amendment to the original bill. 'You can have immunity if you have due diligence,' Goodwyn said. 'It forced the hand of everybody to act diligently.'
Expecting good preparation made sense, he said, because Louisiana is often faced with weather emergencies and equipping for Y2K required little retooling.
'With our contingency plan, all we have to do is rework it a little and we have a Y2K plan. It's the same elements -- no power, no water, no telephone,' he said. 'You think the worst-case scenario and deal with it.'
'My mind eased. There are so many safety nets in place for citizens of this state, it's going to be all right,' he said.
Goodwyn also spread the Y2K word through a weekly column in the local paper, the Daily Advertiser, in which he invited his readers to come to their own conclusions about Y2K. 'I decided to write it and not tell them everything was going to be OK, but (rather) I presented the evidence so they could make up their own mind,' he said.
The Acadiana group's final event -- called Community Conversations, with a 30-person panel and nearly 200 attending -- was held in late August. 'We put on a huge effort to invite the mayor and elected officials, we coordinated with the city, the university and the state of Louisiana and pulled out all the stops,' Goodwyn said. 'We feel like we accomplished our objective. The goal was to raise awareness.'
Goodwyn added, 'Lafayette is ready. The population, city government, utility services, airport, they are ready. We will not panic.'
That may be put to the test this week, along with the state legislation giving citizens the right to demand ?due diligence? in Y2K-preparation from municipal officials. Lafayette and other electric utilities nationwide were scheduled to begin a large-scale drill to test their Y2K readiness on Sept. 8.
After talking with the Lafayette plant manager, Goodwyn said, he is still convinced that the utility is ready. 'If anything goes wrong, it's her job (on the line),' he said.
Contact: David Goodwyn, founder, Acadiana Y2K Awareness Group, Lafayette, La., 318-269-4746; e-mail: DGOODWYN@ACADIANAY2K.ORG.
Background: U. S. Department of Energy, Matthew Donoghue, 202-586-5806. Web site for on-line copy of 9/8/99 Dept. of Energy release assessing U.S. energy utility readiness for
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