Y2K Presents Small Towns With Manpower Challenge, Say Experts

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

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

‘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

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

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

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.,

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