Y2K 'Awareness' seminar at Chamber of Commerce

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3-4-1999 Lancaster County PA. Art Welling

(first off...I left my notes in the other vehicle. Yes, I am an idiot at times, thanks for asking.)

Best half and I attended C of C seminar re Y2K yesterday morning. 3 hours, several speakers, state gov rep- TWO utility reps- local bank rep- an apologetic lawyer- head of county emergency management- of course a C of C guy.

sure wish I had my notes.............

Most common theme....DON'T PANIC. Lots of the repeats of party line....3 to 7 days food and water, buying generators is silly, and FOR GOD'S SAKE LEAVE YOUR MONEY IN THE BANK.

Some notable words spoken....our electric utility admits they will miss state mandated deadline by 4 months and no apologies given. They say they will be ready (surprised, surprised I am). They will have all hands on duty. They replaced 30 year old billing system due to Y2K and deregulation.

Questions were allowed...I had a few hundred but narrowed it down to one or two good ones. I asked PP+L rep if they were actually testing each embedded system, or doing like-kind testing, and if they were doing like-kind testing were they aware of Smith Kline Beachams findings concerning like-kind testing? Rep said he never heard of SKB, and they were doing like-kind testing and computer modeling to test embedded systems. One guy got up and mentioned PP+L's recent personnel cutbacks and how did that effect testing? Waffle waffle. On a scale of 1 to 10, my faith in PP+L is about a 2.

Best was the lady from Bank Of Lancaster. Flat out said that Social Security admin, the FED, and several federal agencies were done/finished/ready/happy happy happy. I had to be restrained from shouting out and demanding she back up that statement. (wife can restrain me with one finger). 'No problems, all is well, we are ready and tested, all is fine. BUT keeping written records was a real good idea and 'no worries cause we have an offsite center if we lose power'. One good note...she said their stuff was shipped off and time machine tested, but I could not find out if ALL of it was tested or just a representative example.

I asked bank rep one question, all I was allowed. She quoted a survey that stated 80% of the people had no plans to take their money out of the bank. My question: "You said 80% of the people don't plan on taking their money out of the bank. That implies 20% of the people do. There is not enough cash in this country to give even 10% of the people their money, let alone 20%. What is Bank of Lancaster going to do when 20% of their customers show up at the door demanding their money?" Reply...waffle waffle stonewall...bank runs not likely.. contingency plans (unnamed)...arrangements to bring cash from other banks..... When I asked my question I caught several dozen people in the crowd shaking heads in agreement with the question. You know, that kinda up and down, yea right, answer THAT one! kinda look.

My wife got up later and redirected her: "Is one of the banks 'contingency plans' to be limiting their customers withdrawals?" Reply was a 10 minute scripted answer she seemed to have been waiting to give, NONE of which addressed the question, all about how healthy and safe the bank is..followed by one line of "We have no plans at this time of limiting withdrawals."

I should mention that at the outset of the meeting the C of C guy said they were NOT given permission by the speakers to record in any way what was said and we should put our tape recorders away. All nicey nicey but quite clear. WGAL TV was there taping the C of C guy in the lobby, and filming crowd shots inside, but not the speakers. (wife was prettiest woman there so she got prominent spot in evening news with crowd shot.)

I walked away with several impressions. One, the biggest thing these people were saying to the crowd (200) was not to panic and just take simple precautions.

The Bank of Lancaster gal was obviously shilling for the house and following a very tight script.

The PPL and gas company guys seemed very straight forward, as did the lawyer. They answered all questions honestly as far as I can tell and did not seem to be afraid to say "I don't know". Lots of the answers seemed carefully worded but that might be my paranoia.

The state rep was a puff piece with no info beyond what her script read, although she recovered well when her power point equipment refused to work and she had to wing it. She had no answers to any questions that were not in her script. I addressed my like-kind testing question at her with regards to the state and she just blank looked. Huh? Wha?

The County Emergency guy...very long winded but little real data. I have heard from back door sources about this guy and what he has done to emergency services....I hold no hope for help from them. Example...they used to have 30 to 50 people they could count on all distributed thru fire and ambulance companies, ham radio guys, etc. Now they have less than ten active people and the last nuke plant drill went....shall we say...poorly. ('I hear', I know, it's second hand but then again so is most of life)

Another impression: This was a chamber of commerce shindig, but open to the public. I would guess about 75% of the people there were local business people. The rest just citizens like me, but more normal I am sure. Except for the guy in the Hawaiian shirt.... There was only ONE question that I could pin to business, something about legal or funding I think it was. ALL the other questions were related to utility preparedness, emergency services, where will the shelters be, form a local task force, etc. etc.

I have the impression the crowd as a whole knew more already than was presented that morning. The questions were very pointed and many had no basis in the panelist's talks. Lots of people were scribbling while the BofL gal was reading her script. Grim faced scribbling, not joyful scribbling, like they were accumulating evidence.

So....that's how I spent my morning yesterday. On the whole it was better than working I suppose, and wifey and I did get a nice lunch afterwards. (restaurant, not their treat of course, they had stale donuts and coffee designed to mask the taste of city water.) We had turkey croquets, mashed potatoes, gravy, and baked lima beans in this interesting sweat and sour sauce, really tasty. Followed it up with Sundays....hot fudge, caramel, and real ice cream not that pasty stuff.

-- Art Welling (artw@lancnews.infi.net), March 04, 1999


Art -

Thanks for the play-by-play. Wish my local C&C would stage one of these. What fun that would be, watching all the song-and-dance.


"We had turkey croquets, mashed potatoes, gravy, and baked lima beans in this interesting sweat and sour sauce..."

I suspect some of the speakers had a little "sweat and sour" sauce with their lunches as well: sweat dripping onto the plate and a sour taste in their mouths when they contemplate the real state of their systems. 8-}]

"Followed it up with Sundays...."

From _Lucifer's Hammer_: "Ice Cream Sundae comes on a Tuesday this year..."

Sorry to pick nits, but it's either me or Gayla, and I figured you'd prefer me to the Grammar Hammer. Them ex-schoolteachers are tough!

Thanks again.

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.com), March 04, 1999.

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