Thinking About Y2K, Think About Your Community

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Some people believe that the year 2000 or Y2K computer problem is a crisis waiting in the wings. Others consider it much ado about nothing. Those of us in the middle of this spectrum believe that there will be problems, but that we will ride them out on a sea of sustainable cooperation that will emerge even as problems mount. We also see Y2K as a wonderful opportunity for building community.

As of right now, Y2K is still not on most people's radar screen, but this will change as 1999 winds down. As more people advance beyond the awareness, denial and anger stages of Y2K, they will reach a decision point. People will face the choice of ignoring the problem, reacting out of fear or panic, or striving to turn the year 2000 into a collective opportunity.

Ignoring the year 2000 issue completely is not a good idea. Even if the impact of the problem is minimal, which is unlikely, people that ignore the Y2K problem are likely to feed gloom and doom fringe groups through benign neglect. If, on the other hand, the year 2000 problem is even half as bad as some believe, ignoring the problem means that you will be blindsided by a sea of inconveniences or worse.

Joining fringe groups that are pushing people to flee their homes, fill food coffers and stockpile other essentials is another choice, but one that the masses cannot embrace. There simply is not enough food, medicine, blankets, water, raw materials, solar panels, generators or other essentials for everyone to stockpile. A stockpiling, head-for-the-hills strategy is elitist. In other words, it only works for a small percentage of the population. If, on the other hand, the problem is not a big deal, this option creates the very problem it was meant to address. There will be shortages galore created by mass hoarding and panic. If there truly is a problem, this solution compounds the pain for the rest of us. Again, this option seems counterproductive in either event.

The third choice is the most logical. Build sustainable year 2000 plans within your community. Working cooperatively within one's community means that you are looking out not just for yourself, but for everyone in the community. This includes the poor, the sick, the elderly and all of the rest of us. This option works for those that believe the problem is extremely serious, for those that have staked out the middle ground on the issue and for those that think the problem is no big deal. And the good news is that no one gets hurt.

If Y2K results in minor inconveniences, we will have established new relationships in our communities in preparation for other challenges we may face. These could include hurricanes, floods and earthquakes, or something as mundane as a zoning issue. If the problem is serious, the community will have ensured that everyone is prepared. The community preparedness strategy stems from three principals. The longer one has to prepare for a problem, the better one can deal with it. The worst time for disparate groups to get to know each other is during a disaster. And, a community working together creates better collective solutions than one could achieve individually.

Preparations, which involve the creation of a Y2K community task force, must begin now. This means that community leaders, elected officials and business professionals should assemble a Y2K task force. This involves organizing a team, creating a mission, building awareness by working with other local groups, partnering with the private and public sector, researching community readiness and creating a millennium transition plan. If anyone would like a generic guide for creating such a group, they may obtain it at

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