Clemson, S.C.-based Victoria Kraeling, who conducts Y2K workshops on emergency preparedness for state and local agencies, says there's far more to the Y2K challenge than adjusting computers. Contingency plans are critical in ensuring that the new millennium is ushered in with as few problems as possible, she said.
For example, remediation priority is typically given to emergency operations such as the 911 line, but simply ensuring the lines will be open doesn't mean 911 will be functional.
'I ask 911 operators in workshops, 'What if your community has a power outage? If you feel like your family (is not safe) will you show up for work? The answer across the board was, 'No,'' Kraeling said.
'What have we done to ensure that they show up for work?' she asked. 'I don't see a lot of contingency built up.'
Kaeling said small-town administrations also usually say that computer-controlled water and sewage systems will be operated manually if the software systems fail on Jan. 1. 'They say, 'We'll do it the way we did it 20 years ago,' But the big question is, Who's going to do it? Where are you going to get the people who will come out and leave their families?'
According to Kraeling, the key question is: 'Do you have a contingency plan in place with additional manpower to make it work?'
Selling small towns on the idea of Y2K preparedness has been an exercise in frustration, said Elaine Fluke, owner of Contracts and Administrative Technical Services in Tucson, Ariz., which consults and aids governments and businesses in Y2K compliance.
'What we found was employees of towns or cities knew this was going to be a problem, and they tried to get something done, but it takes the local government to appropriate the money, and nobody was willing to step forward because it was an election year, for whatever reason,' Fluke said. 'So there was a late start, if any.'
Most local governments who did address the situation didn't give it the attention it requires, she said. 'It was always a low priority for them. They didn't think the problem affected them.'
They also failed to recognize the ripple effect, Fluke said. 'Some were already looking at their computer system but failed to recognize all the embedded systems throughout the government, such as the water department or the (levels of chemicals in) the municipal pool,' she said.
Now, with fewer than 100 days until the century's end, some towns are realizing their oversight, 'and now they're scrambling,' Fluke said.
The key word now is 'contingency,' she said. 'The next thing affecting communities is preparedness or contingency planning. For example, if you don't have gasoline to run the snowplows, then you've got a problem in the winter. So the contingency might be to store gasoline.'
While Kraeling fears small towns are at a Y2K disadvantage, they typically are more equipped and adept at handling the kind of adversity that the start of the new millennium might cause, Kraeling said.
'I am convinced small towns have a can-do attitude. They have a strength of coming together and working as a community, which is very different than larger cities,' she said.
Contacts: Victoria Kraeling, Y2K emergency preparedness consultant, Clemson, S.C., 864-654-7333. Elaine Fluke, owner, Contracts and Administrative Technical Services, Tucson, Ariz., 520-544-3882.
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