London ready for Y2K bug : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

London ready for Y2K bug

By JOE PARASKEVAS, Free Press Business

Telephones will ring, electricity will flow, gas will provide warmth and civic, fire and police departments will continue to perform their duties, delegates to a Y2K conference heard yesterday.

In almost militaristic fashion yesterday, London's utilities and essential services providers announced how they have prepared for the arrival of the end of the year. Offering no guarantees but expressing general satisfaction that Y2K problems were under control, representatives of those utilities and essential services briefed about 300 business people on the year-end scenarios they foresaw in a meeting sponsored by the London Chamber of Commerce and the City of London.

"We expect three times as many people as are normally downtown on New Year's Eve," London police Chief Al Gramolini said, describing the extra large celebration planned for Victoria Park. "We'll be busy and the potential is there for something to go wrong."

Gramolini cited power failures or problems with traffic lights as possible causes of disruption, but his overall message was a positive one, and so were those of the nine other presenters who described how they had examined the Y2K issues each of them faced, and the measures they had taken to solve problems.

"I'm sure nothing's going to occur because of the work we've been doing the last two years," Gramolini said. "We'll be able to respond to any emergency."

The meeting, a rare example, according to chamber of commerce general manager Gerry Macartney, of municipal and corporate co-operation on the Y2K problem, also looked at Y2K as an example of how important it was for a company to be ready for an emergency.

"It's not just Y2K problems that we need to prepare for," said Ed Jambor, director of operations for London Hydro, using cases of past power failures in New Zealand and the northeast seaboard of the United States to show how emergencies occur and how authorities react.

"What would you do if there was a fire in your office?" Jambor asked the audience. "What sort of disaster recovery plan do you have?"

Henry Crichton, division head of public services for the City of London, said the city's engineers had envisaged 17 different disaster scenarios, adding that his department has collaborated with school boards and community groups, as well as the police and fire departments on common Y2K concerns.

"Anytime we're responding to major events, we need to prioritize our calls," said London fire Chief Dave Hodgins, who will enlist locksmiths, elevator technicians and other such personnel to be on call at fire stations on New Year's Eve.

"That's what we'll do on December 31st," Hodgins said. "You need to think about that in the business community."

During questions at the end of the meeting, presenters heard concerns about fuel oil provision and possible food distribution in the event of a Y2K emergency.

There were inquiries about how the varying demands of industries, which would go on holiday and then return in full force, would affect the electricity supply.

Allan McLuskie, director of the physical plant at St. Joseph's Health Centre, asked whether Y2K problems would affect the supply of water.

"The hospital relies heavily on water, moreso than most industries," McLuskie said. "We use water for special operations that are critical to patient care."

"We had to be extremely careful on the water side because we have one of the most automated systems in Ontario, if not in Canada," replied John Braam, the city's operating engineer for sewer and water, adding that engineers are checking both the field-based computers as well as the ones operators use.

One question that the presenters could not answer dealt with the susceptibility of cellphones to Y2K glitches. But Bell Mobility later confirmed that services such as call processing and management, billing and activations were all Y2K ready.

-- Norm (, April 14, 1999


Hard to tell from the story - the fundamental background indicates (if other stories confirm enough testing has been completed satisfactorily) that these representatives have their act together - have worked long enough and are taking contingencies seriously that their actual remediation may have been effective.

Does my caution make sense? I'm obviously not jumping up and down with the same glee that the reporter has, but this sort of information (if it is based on real remediation and testing) shows that the problem can be solved given enough time, management attention, money, and people.

The departments are certainly taking the potential for trouble VERY seriously, more so that any US city to date. If they have finished remediation and testing - it indicates to me that this "serious" attitude towards contingency planning stems from all sorts of weird problems in many weird places - hence they have learned they HAVE to be cautious in assuming that "everything will be okay."

On the other hand, so few US cities and counties have done so little remediation, and in general paid so little attention to remediation and Y2K, that they have thus never learned that it is hard, slow, tricky, and tedious to repair. And they have not "learned," through detailed testing and retesting, that the problem hides in many places.

So the prevelent US attitude is that it is easy to fix = "We will be ready..."

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, April 23, 1999.

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