Panic Could Be Biggest Hurdle For Year 2000 (Canada) : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

A sound sense that the public is receiving accurate, truthful Y2K infomation, would help ... even more. Rather than public dis information campaigns.


Vancouver Sun
Last updated: Monday 10 May 1999

Panic could be biggest hurdle for year 2000


OTTAWA (CP) - By now, most Canadians are aware of the technological meltdowns, systems failures and computer bugs that organizations are fighting to deal with before the new millennium.

But what of the personal meltdowns, failing nerves and people bugging out? Companies and governments arent just planning against the possibility of their computers going haywire, they are looking into strategies to deal with the publics reaction to real and imagined threats.

There are at least two Hollywood films being planned for release this fall on the year 2000 problem, and contingency planners are fearing the hype might make Y2K a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Shortages of food, water, medicine, candles, batteries, wood, generators and other goods are a possibility depending on how the public perceives the severity of the problem.

"Peoples basic mistrust begins to take over, because they think "whats the worst thing I can do if I stock up? Ill just have too much food for January," said Dave Wilks, president of the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors.

"Well, it also creates a lot of difficulties on the supply chain, it will create scheduling problems, so it begins to have an economic impact which isnt very positive."

Wilks says that hes heard from some chains that theyre stocking up on some items just in case theres hoarding, but he says people shouldnt worry about bare shelves.

The pharmaceutical sector in Canada has been meeting to come up with a strategy on the panic factor, based on fears that people will start hoarding prescription and off-the-shelf drugs.

Even cashiers at pharmacies will be on the lookout for customers with large quantities of medication, and doctors are being asked not to write unnecessarily extended prescriptions.

"We will have something in every pharmacy in Canada that . . . gets people to realize that if they hoard they may create a shortage for somebody else," said spokeswoman Noelle-Dominique Willems.

Willems added that people who are planning on stockpiling medication should remember that almost all products have relatively short expiration dates.

Many industries say theyre not planning on stocking up on materials themselves any more than they would during any other holiday period. The real challenge is the public relations strategy: getting the message out to people that there is no need for stockpiling.

The Canadian Red Cross recently launched a campaign entitled "Be Prepared, Not Scared," advising people to take the regular precautions for unforeseen events without losing their cool.

Darren Shewchuk, spokesman for the Canadian telecommunications industry on Y2K issues, said his sector will try to gauge public anxiety towards the end of the year before deciding on a public campaign.

Phone companies are reassuring Canadians that their systems will run smoothly when the year changes, but want people to recognize that they can have an impact on the system.

"One of things that we think might happen is people picking up their telephones a minute or two after midnight and checking for dial tone," Shewchuk said.

"When you have millions of people trying to do that at the same time, its akin to a traffic jam."

Shewchuk added that if people get a fast busy tone, they shouldnt panic - the lines are just temporarily clogged as they sometimes are on Christmas or Mothers Day.

Federal officials say theyre not concerned yet about public anxiety, based on polling that suggests most Canadians are cool, calm and collected.

That hasnt stopped the Bank of Canada from printing extra money for the new millennium, in anticipation of a run on instant tellers over the New Year.

The banking sector has been trying to get the message out that money is safe, even issuing a guarantee that funds will be safe.

Scott Mullin, spokesman for the Canadian Bankers Association, said theres a fear that people will expose themselves to theft if they try to withdraw all their cash.

"Money in the bank is much safer than money under the mattress."

-- Diane J. Squire (, May 10, 1999


Wonder how long it will be before armbands are issued.

-- INVAR (, May 10, 1999.

Thanks Diane!

I was just at the Vancouver Sun site before seeing this and did a search on Y2K. Nothing came up. HHHHMMMM

Sort of sounds like the mantra, stock up and you screw up the supply chain. Well that is why they should do it now and not when the movies come out.

The pharmaceutical situation is a little more tricky of course. You can stock up on wood, candles, and dried food they will not expire . Meds do expire. It would seen that in the fall the medical community will be walking a tight rope. You can't over perscribe meds in BC without it going on the Pharacare data base so Doctors would be hesitant about that. Oh and 80% of the Meds are imported into Canada.

If there are any Canadians that would like to know more about Health Care in Canada and Y2K give me a shout and I will try and help get you information if you need it. Not a health care person just a conserned person.

-- Brian (, May 10, 1999.

I also recall Koskinen's supply chain comments from ...

NRC Nuclear Regulatory Commission Briefing On Y2K
Thursday, February 11, 1999 19990211b.html



... That brings me to my request of the Commission and the staff and the industry. That is that our other major problem and risk in the United States will be overreaction by the public to the perception of what this problem could look like.

We are concerned that if a few people decide to change their economic behavior, it won't make a lot of difference, if even a reasonable number of people do that, but if 200 million Americans decide to do anything very differently all at one time, the system is not geared up to deal with that, and we could have a self-fulfilling prophesy where we have a major economic problem even though the systems basically are functioning appropriately. ...

[snip -- to end

-- Diane J. Squire (, May 10, 1999.

"There are at least two Hollywood films being planned for release this fall on the year 2000 problem..."

This is the second time I've seen this sort of comment recently, and I think these reporters need to do some fact-checking. It's now May. There's no real buzz on the movie sites like "Coming Attractions" of even one Y2K-themed film, let alone two of 'em (cf. last year's asteroid-fest with Armageddon and Deep Impact). The much-rumored Chris O'Donnell flick is just that: a rumor. If it was set for release in 3Q, we'd certainly have heard something about it.

Has anyone seen specifics about these films?

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), May 10, 1999.

Try Entrapment, starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones (yum!).

-- Steve Heller (, May 10, 1999.


Does 'bing' mean anything to you?

-- Yan (, May 11, 1999.

Steve, bit on the tubby side...

Catherine's not bad tho...

-- Andy (, May 11, 1999.

Yep. Yum!

-- humpty (, May 11, 1999.

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