Regulations, Y2K Disruptions, Faryna Factor : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

This is a reposting of what I put in the stormier thread between Poole and Hamasaki. It wasn't the best place for it, I realized. (grin) After all, this post is about federal, state, and local regulations and how potential Y2K problems could impact doing business as usual due to the requirements of certain regulations. More research needs to be done on this, so I would appreciate the insights and knowledge of business owners and counselors who are familiar with the regulations they follow in running their particular business or advising clients.

Yesterday, I got to the bank and the lobby was closed. At least the drive-thru window and ATMs were working. When I finally got to the drive-thru teller (waiting about an hour), I asked what was going on. The teller told me that all the telephone lines were dead, therefore some federal regulation required that they keep the doors locked. That's why they could not open the lobby for business. I'm assuming that since the alarm wasn't patched to the police department or whoever, this is the reason why the supposed regulation requires that they keep their doors locked.

This may be an interesting factor to consider when Y2K hits and if one sector of the infrastructure goes down in some places and has a broader impact due to such regulations. Does anyone know about this specific regulation? What other situations could close and impede a business due to the federal, state, or local regulations? Does the Domino theory and/or various scales (1-10 stuff) of different levels of Y2K disruptions include non-Y2K disruptions that will be caused by Y2K disruptions? I don't think I've read anything about this at all.

If there is no water for cooks and servers to wash their hands, are there regulations requiring restaraunts to close until the water is restored? I believe there is also a regulation that a grocery store cannot sell meat, etc. at full price if the power has been out for a certain number of hours (this happened during last winter's power out and quite a few people were glad to get highly discounted steaks and such, but store managers were not happy).

Finally, what would be the impact of this factor on the sustainability of small businesses over a period of time? Would this factor bring down various small businesses that might have been able to weather the so-called three months of potential on and off disruptions... if such regulations did not impede them from doing business? Is there any legislation (federal, state, local) that suspends regulations during a disaster? Is any such legislation proposed?

Sincerely, Stan Faryna

-- Stan Faryna (, April 27, 1999


Stan - This is an important topic, at least as far as awareness by the business community (and, of course, I posted on the other thread where it will remain buried). I work way up in a major downtown high rise (45 floors). Last year we lost water (and therefore sewer and fire sprinklers) when a construction project sliced through the water main. We had no water for a couple hours, and were very close to be shut down for public health reasons. It seems there are lots of reasons (like the power rationing which NERC is promoting as a Y2K contingency plan) that a high rise would have to shut down for not meeting building and health codes, and it is one of the reasons I wonder whether I will be temporarily out of work next January. I'm trying to get my company to focus on the implications. I don't know the specific regulations, but I doubt that the ability of the American people to muddle through these scenarios will be enough to be allowed to keep going. Too many reasons the laws say a building can be condemned.

-- Brooks (, April 27, 1999.

Stan I do not know much about business regulations, but after working more than twenty years in the public school system in central California, I can say that if any of the utilities such as electricity or gas goes down (it occassionally does) then classes must either be relocated or cancelled for the duration of the disruption. Sometimes public school administrators ignore this regulation, but it is still a law nevertheless.

-- Larry Trapp (, April 27, 1999.

The EPA has already stated that it WILL enforce all regulations regarding pollution, etc. y2k or not. This includes injunctions against discharge and appropriate fines. They have a suggested protocol for embedded chip testing and may cut violators some slack if they follow it.

I also had occassion to ask our local Ag Commissioner (who's office includes the dept. of weights and measures) whether he planned to get the Bd. of Supervisors to put in place some sort of emergency measures to cut some slack on gas pumps. Apparently, a mechanic can retrofit a pump to work manually by circumventing the computer stuff. He told me that he could not allow it. If the measures could not be certified, it was his duty to shut it down. (Not good in a one gas station town with the next nearest 20 miles away.)

Ken Evans, Pres. of Arizona Farm Bureau brought out in his testimony that his truck drivers required valid licences and certificates to move produce - particularly on federal highways and across state lines. If the DMV is down and the truck scales don't work, this could cause problems.

In my years of professional experience dealing with regulators, I have found them to be a particularly inflexible, myopic and anal retentive bunch. We have a saying in our business that the massive amount of regulations heaped upon our industry has made criminals of us all. No one can turn around without violating some regulation. The Federal Register has pages and pages of new ones every day. It is impossible to operate a business. It is difficult and stressfull living under such repression for long periods. It has almost come to the point that people have to ignore the law and take their chances at getting caught. This is a very painfull thing for people who have always been straight-arrow "law abiding" citizens.

What will happen when suburban people start cutting trees for firewood without appropriate permits, fees, public notices and comment periods? Store fuel in excess of the limited amounts allowed? Dig a well or put in an outhouse? Plant a garden that is not in compliance with neighborhood landscaping? Use water without filing for a water right? Till land or use water that modifies endangered species habitat or wetlands? You can bet some smug little bureaucrat will come out with his clipboard and red tag you or exthort some concession or donation like "set asides" or public access before you can actually use your property.

Welcome to the world of trying to live off your land.

-- marsh (, April 27, 1999.

Stan and Brooks: another reason that developing countries will be less affected by y2k disruptions. A backed-up john is hardly cause to shut down anything in say, Egypt or Guatemala.

-- morgan (, April 27, 1999.

Marsh - I'm one of those "smug little bureaucrats" on the local side. My town appears to be "well on its way" to fixing the town's systems. However, there is zero contingency planning in progress for those issues outside the town's control, and reason to believe that won't change. If we are faced with a worst case situation of struggling for heat, food and water next winter, then the ability of the town to kick out the next quarterly tax bill is not going to be a priority to the rest of us.

I think that many of the individual town boards have a role in the contingency planning. For instance, the Health Director should be outlining alternative sewage disposal options. The problem is, some of the most sensible options (assuming they are carried out properly) are not necessarliy ones that would meet current code, a situation I believe we are in because there is an assumption in the law that we can't be trusted to take individual responsibility. (Frankly, these aren't the skills my suburban community is likely to have.) If the town has a disposal crisis, virtually noone will know what to do, and serious and totally preventable health or environmental issues could result.

My own board involves management of town-owned conservation areas, including a small community garden (small for lack of interest) and large wooded tracts (unharvested in recent years for lack of interest). I have raised the issue with others on my board that we should be working on what it would take to open up the town forest to forestry or to expand the garden plots, and to let the town know ahead of time what worst case options could be available if Y2K hits hard. This will never happen because (a) my board thinks this is ridiculous, and (b) without a town management policy that instructs the boards to prepare a contingency plan, we would be treated as a renegade board and barred from going ahead.

So, we are caught in a morass of laws that may not be especially relevant next year, a shortage of inspectors or other regulators to help us muddle through in the public good, and a generally uneducated populace. Y2K shouldn't be an excuse for needlessly trashing our environment or endangering the health of our community, but lack of planning or survival techniques could lead to that. Your post suggests you are in a more rural setting, where folks might have more knowledge and the advantage of more room to spread out. There are plenty of laws back east that make sense, assuming a continuation of the public infrastructure. But noone, including the bureaucrats, is helping us to cope with the possibilities of Y2K.

-- Brooks (, April 27, 1999.

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