Y2K Presents Small Towns With Manpower Challenge, Say Experts

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Some small-town governments may not be as prepared for Y2K as they would like to think, and key reasons are personnel and politics, say two Y2K consultants to local governments in different parts of the country.

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?'

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