Y2K Spawns Citywide Disaster Plan

Jim Brown, police chief of Hudson, Ohio (pop. 5100), has no idea
what, if anything, will happen when the Y2K bug kicks in, but he
has spent the past six months reading books, listening to speeches,
and looking at more than 1,000 web sites about Y2K in an effort to
get ready.

‘Responsible police administrators have absolutely no choice
other than to plan for the worst-case scenario and hope, as you,
for something significantly less,’ Brown told members of the U.S.
Senate’s Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem in
April. ‘It would be unacceptable and irresponsible to do anything

Under Brown’s direction, the Hudson police department has
devised a master plan for dealing with emergencies of any type, be
they tornadoes, floods, explosions or problems caused by microchips
that are unable to recognize the difference between the years 1900
and 2000.

Brown sees Y2K as a ‘vehicle for disaster planning and emergency
preparedness,’ an aspect of public safety he says has been
overlooked too long, especially in areas not typically affected by
natural disasters. Meanwhile, the country has become ever more
dependent on technology to run basic utilities that most people
take for granted.

‘We just assume that every time we pick up the phone it’s going
to work,’ he said. If it doesn’t, people in Hudson at least know
what to do. Under an emergency communications plan, residents first
try calling 911. If the connection fails, they can dial a special
nonemergency phone number. If that number doesn’t work, they can
dial the number for any one of three cellular phone lines dedicated
to receiving emergency calls. In the event that all phone efforts
fail, residents are encouraged to flag down a police officer on
patrol or report to either the city’s Safety Center (police
department building) or to one of 19 ‘mini-reporting stations.’

The stations, staffed by community volunteers, will be based in
buildings, school buses and privately owned vehicles at
predetermined locations throughout the city. All volunteers will be
equipped with reflective vests, city identification cards and
magnetic signs for their vehicles that read ‘Police Mini-Station.’
According to the police department web site, stations will be
activated within three hours of a citywide telecommunications

The city has designated its high school, which has an emergency
power generator, as an emergency shelter.

People working at the shelter, like the police mini-stations,
will be citizens of Hudson, donating their time through the city’s
Voluntary Involvement Program. Other program positions could
include working as a dispatcher, security officer or medical aide.
Applicants fill out a form to describe their skills and interests.
Then in the event of an emergency, the police department will
contact citizens as needed — a sort of a ‘don’t call us, we’ll
call you’ system, said Brown. ‘The last thing you want is to have
500 people descend on your town hall when all you need is 50,’ said

Brown has set up a meeting in September with all volunteers to
give them more information. Currently about 35 applications have
been submitted. Brown hopes to have as many as 200 volunteers
signed up by autumn.

Like the rest of the people in Hudson, Brown is unsure of what,
if anything, will happen on Jan. 1, 2000, but he and his officers
plan to be ready to handle disruptions in city services and any
resulting breaches of law. The department will step up its normal
patrol of 4 or 5 officers to 10 officers, each working 12-hour
shifts, to maintain increased coverage continuously from 6 a.m. on
Dec. 31 through the morning of Jan. 4.

The safety of Hudson’s citizens is worth the added cost in
overtime pay, Brown said. ‘If nothing happens, then nothing
happens. I just can’t afford to roll those dice.’

He encourages other police departments not only to create
contingency plans but also to communicate them to its citizens.
Hudson published an eight-page newsletter in April explaining its
emergency plans. The flyer, called ‘Our Town,’ was mailed to all

Brown invites community leaders to read the Hudson Police
Department’s on-line contingency plan and modify it for use in
their own communities.

‘I get tired of hearing people say, ‘We’re running out of time.’
Even if you only have 30 days, you can use that to put at least
some plans into effect,’ Brown said.

The goal of every organization should be to have a feasible
contingency plan in place well in advance of Dec. 31, he said.

The Hudson police department serves the town and a 25-square
mile area outside with a total population of 23,000, located
between the cities of Cleveland and Akron. Its emergency
preparedness plan can be viewed on the Internet at

Contacts: Jim Brown, chief of police, Hudson Police
Department, Hudson, Ohio, 330-342-1800; fax: 330-342-1821; e-mail:
Jbrown1483@aol.com ; web site:

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