Elec. Telegraph: US sets up bunkrs to beat Millennium chaosgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Before going off half=cocked, please know that our small city has had an Emergency Ops Center for at least the six years we've been here, as does Norfolk, VA (at least 12 years), and New Orleans has had one since not long after Hurricane Camille, in 1967.
ISSUE 1423, Sunday 18 April 1999
US sets up bunkers to beat Millennium chaos, By James Langton in New York
AMERICA'S major cities are preparing secret command centres and making plans to mobilise armed troops in the event of a possible breakdown of social order if there is widespread computer failure on the eve of 2000.
City fathers are known to be concerned that the so-called Y2K bug could cause widespread power failures, the breakdown of traffic management and difficulties in running everything from airports to ambulances.
The result is a revival of the bunker mentality not seen since the end of the Cold War. Last week New York revealed that its new $12 million emergency command centre was: "Ninety per cent complete but fully operational." The 23rd-floor, 46,000 sq ft complex, near the World Trade Centre in Manhattan, can house up to 100 of the city's most senior employees and is protected behind a wall of bullet-proof glass. It was built above ground because of the risk of flooding from broken water mains.
Mayor Rudi Giuliani ordered the construction of the new control room only last year. While it is designed to deal with any emergency from a terrorist attack to a hurricane, the speed of its construction suggests that New York's planning for possible Y2K chaos is at an advanced stage. It was used for the first time during a snow storm in February.
Other areas are taking similar precaution. State officials in Ohio announced last month that they were ready to move government operations into a $13-million bunker eight miles outside downtown Columbus on Dec 29. The command centre will be manned 24 hours a day from New Year's Eve until it is no longer needed. It is surrounded by barbed wire, with underground dormitories, a filtered air supply, food and water. The Ohio state officials say that it will be used to co-ordinate relief efforts if there is a major failure of public utilities.
The centre's director of operations is James Williams, a retired Army National Guard general who insists that the decision to man the centre for the end of the Millennium is "not a panic situation. If nothing happens, we can go home and watch football."
Los Angeles, which experienced serious rioting following the Rodney King trial in 1992, is understood to be preparing an operations centre five floors beneath a federal building in the centre of the city. The Automated Traffic Signal and Control Centre (ATSAC) is normally used to manage traffic in the notoriously congested Los Angeles area but has the advantage of dozens of remote-control cameras at strategic road junctions which could become the eyes and ears of emergency planners.
The ATSAC command centre is also designed to be proof against earthquakes and nuclear explosions, and is protected by four vault doors similar to those used in banks. It has its own power system and can be reached only by a secret lift. American government officials have admitted that they have no idea of the possible disruption that the Y2K bug could potentially cause on the most technologically dependent nation in the world.
As in Britain, government bodies as well as private companies have been racing against time to ensure that the computers which run everything from nuclear missiles to air traffic control are reprogrammed to work normally from January 1.
The Y2K computer problem is caused by some computer chips reading the year 2000 as 1900 because they only recognise the last two digits, and therefore either malfunctioning or shutting off the system they are controlling.
Washington has been playing down fears of disruption caused by Y2K computer crashes. Tens of thousands of Americans are less confident, however, and are actively preparing for the worst. Stocks of oil lamps and wood stoves are almost exhausted in many areas, along with supplies of dried foods in quantities which would allow a family to survive for a year.
The US Treasury is also preparing to print hundreds of millions of extra dollars because it believes huge numbers of people will take out extra cash before the New Year as a precaution against cash machines failing to work.
The question of civil disorder is more sensitive. Responsibility for keeping law and order will rest with the National Guard, a part-time force which has access to guns, tanks and even fighter aircraft. Secret discussions are understood to have taken place at the Army Readiness Centre in Washington last summer to prepare for Y2K-related problems.
National Guard units are organised by state but are said to be co-ordinating with Federal agencies on a new command and control system with high-frequency radios, emergency power backup and command centres to be ready by the end of the year. A full recall of all 370,000 and 110,000 army and air National Guard members can only be authorised by Congress and has not taken place since 1940. An initial step would be the cancellation of all armed forces leave on Dec 31.
Canada, which has created a task force of 14,500 military personnel to be mobilised from January 1, as part of Operation Abacus, is a step ahead. It has already put all its 60,000 troops and reservists, with the exception of those on overseas duty, on alert for the Millennium.
-- Old Git (email@example.com), April 17, 1999
I used to live in New Orleans, and have been to the "MTA" bunker many times. There used to be amateur radio meetings in there.
It's quite impressive, it is mostly above ground, because in New Orleans, if you dig down very far, you hit water.
It is bristling with antennae and has its own power & fuel storage, etc.
It's about 3 or 4 stories underground, and can hold about 50 or 60 people (if I remember right), for several months.
They were goind to get rid of it in the middle '80's. Bet they're glad it's still there.
PS("MTA" means "Metropolitan Target Area" - denoting the New Orleans was considered to be the 8th most likely city in the US to get nuked by the Russians)
-- Jollyprez (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 17, 1999.
Jolly, don't you miss the food? It's what turned me into a pseudo-gourmet cook--and is probably largely the cause of my diabetes!
Just wanted to clarify your description of the New Orleans center--it's a curved-top structure, like the old war-time Nissan (?) huts, built into a large artificial mound many feet above sea level, and buried under more earth. Hardly noticeable under all that grass. If a Category 4 or 5 hurricane hits New Orleans the right way (directly across Lake Pontchartrain, emptying it onto the city or up the Mississippi emptying THAT on the city), then flooding will be catastrophic. Near the lakefront, close to where the center is, 12-15' of water can be expected. Most of New Orleans is below sea level--it's highest point is 3' above, and the site is saucer-shaped.
I hope the ET article is largely true for those cities where emergency ops centers did not formerly exist. We'll need them.
-- Old Git (email@example.com), April 17, 1999.