Louisiana Residents Say They?re Ready for Y2K

LAFAYETTE, La. — With only a few months left before the new year
and a just-released federal report calling the local utility
unready for Y2K, Lafayette residents still say they’re fully
prepared for possible utility outages and computer-related
problems.

‘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

Y2K:

www.home.doe.gov/news/releases99/seppr/pr99235.htm
.

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