[civicprep] Inspirational yet practical ideas for goverment and Y2K preparedness

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Here's a refreshing mix of new ideas and well-articulated familiar ideas, for those struggling in the strange and shifting landscape of community preparedness. It was written to California State Senator (and Y2K Paul Revere) John Vasconcellos. -- Tom Atlee

From: "Thomas B Gilligan"
Subject: your suggestions for State Wide Y2K plans
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2000 20:19:05 -0500

Dear Mr. Senator

I am a native Californian and although I do not live there now, much of my family does and I of course have a strong personal interest in their welfare and health.

It is good to see your voice calling for serious y2k planning and engagement on behalf of the California government.

I would like to simply comment on some of my personal concerns related toyour 20 point plan or general concerns for California.

Some General Points:

People are scared by y2k. People hear all types of things. People thirst for honest information. Many people want to plan to be ready, but they do not really understand what to be ready for. Yet information must not be toned down to that which people want to hear. It must be real, verifiable and accurate.

It is absolutely impossible for most of the people to get ready on a material basis with extra food, water, etc. (nationwide). Y2k drives those who fear/understand it into unusual purchasing patterns. Even something as benign as buying a few extra cans of tuna, if it is not what one would usually do, becomes an unusual event. Persons with larger assets can often absorb larger amounts in such markets. There will certainly be a given amount of profiteering attempted. No matter what you do to inform people, there is likely to come a time when something runs short (toilet paper, canned meat, canned fruits, etc.) This information will hit the presses and the public is likely to begin accelerating their plans to stock up their cupboards. It should not be considered fear mongering to state the almost obvious conclusion that there will be food runs. And at that point the words "calm down and don't participate" are only going to fan the flames. What a desperate mother of three children wants to hear when she suddenly faces the specter of food stores closing is "calm down, the State has arranged for delivery of 2 million tons of dried grains and beans which will be sold on an equitable basis (ration) to each family at an equitable price". The state does not really have to buy the food. They should just offer very interesting tax credits to any company who is able to deliver large quantities of bulk food even under heavy demand. I would suggest that the State take the initiative to identify and assist companies who are able to sell food in bulk formats (like 5 gallon buckets) and make some type of tax credit available.

Getting ready for y2k is very expensive. On both the individual family level and on community levels it requires the redeployment of money, time, and brain power. If the State were to throw $100 Million at the problem, that is only $5 per person. Your greatest resource are the people themselves. Many people in California continue to spend their money on things which are not essential, when with accurate information they could save and redeploy assets and time. For example, instead of $50 for a dinner out on the weekend, why not get some canned goods and dried food.

1. Asia or Agriculture - You mention continuity of business with Asia. Please remember that California is the nations largest provider of fruits, vegetables, and rice. Severe interuption of California's agricultural sector will cost the state a lot of money and other states a lack of food. I would consider continuity of this sector to be as important as business with Asia. Also, if there is a serious world-wide economic impact from y2k, regions which are able to generate income by growing and exporting food may recover more quickly. It may sound humorous, but there is certainly a lot of hand labor required in the California fields, so unemployed technologists may find work for a season as farmhands. I hiked over many trails in the mountains in California which were built by unemployed workers during the depression of the 30's. Contingency plans for shifting large enough numbers of people out to the fields may be worthwhile.

2. Electricity - Anyone who comes to understand the systemic issues which y2k raises will easily understand that sustained loss of electrical power will devastate any region which suffers this fate. There are a lot of scary rumors and misinformation circulating about the vulnerability of the national grid. Honestly addressing the issues here and publicizing the outcome honestly will be one of the most important national events of 1999 (Consider also that the NRC has a mid-summer deadline for Nuclear Reactors, which may cause forced closure of several nuclear plants nationwide.)

Your plan calls for government to pressure the electric industry to give quarantees (or quasi-guarantees). Let's be honest. These utilities already understand that the whole thing is riding on their backs. If there really is any reasonable prospect that they could fail (meaning people experience more and longer power outages than they do normally), then the public should be trained ahead of time (using television) on how to manage in electrical outages and how to do their best to help utilities. It is very scary to consider a country without electricity, but it is even scarier to consider a country of unprepared people without electricity.

The focus of government with utilities should be to invite them to publicize the actions which they would require of the public in order to manage outages. For example, in the same way that traffic conditions are reported, it may be possible to build some type of neighborhood response system which lets utilities use people as local reporters. It would also be important for the local media to be prepared on how to cover and disseminate coordinated information.

3. Almost all people in high places seem to fear panic. There is a lot of energy spent and a lot of positioning of opinion which seems to be "trying to inform without causing panic". There is an important property of panic which you must use to your benefit. Panic does not last long. Panic is a shortlived response which usually turns to fear. People will not listen when they are in panic. People act irrationally when they are in panic. Fear, however, is a great motivator. People will listen when afraid, people will plan when afraid, people will try to act according to "best obvious outcome" rules. People start to act and then fear turns into inspiration, and then waves of depression and inspiration - but work gets done - people focus on the essentials. Panic is the only medicine which will get most of the public to wake up and consider what it is worth to prepare - and what it is worth not to prepare. Panic in the last weeks of December will only be chaos. Panic in the last weeks of June would allow the government and the public to live in fear together for 6 months and maybe get some things done.

It is important to remember that there are a lot of things which people can do to "prepare for y2k" which would make sense anyway. It is always valuable to look at your life, find out where you are dependant or vulnerable and make some investments to build a stronger house or community. It is always worth going through the storage closet to find neglected items which might serve a good purpose. It is always worth considering what skills one might offer in a crisis. It is always worth meeting the neighbors a bit more.

The problem you now face is that there is really very little time for additional layers of task forces and committees. You will also find that even until the bitter end, there will not be agreement on the expected outcome, and there will always be "voices of authority" who claim that it is blown way out of proportion. In this environment you will always have trouble getting official approval on any grand scheme.

You will do better to accelerate the panic, wake people up, let them get afraid while there is still time to prepare.

You may seem unpopular in the process, but honest leadership and candid information will in my opinion be quite valuable to your carreer as a leader, in retrospect once we pass through.

Best wishes and very good luck on the hard work which lies ahead.

Thom Gilligan

[/snip] ~C~

-- Critt Jarvis (middleground@critt.com), April 15, 1999


Very good, Crit. Thanks for putting it on the forum. We should all email this to Ko-sic-em! And maybe even Bennett, et al. Got any email addresses of them? Taz

-- Taz (Tassie@aol.com), April 15, 1999.

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