Civil Defence Preparedness strategy in New Zealand : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

SOURCE: Civil Defence system geared to be Y2K nerve centre: Infotech Weekly, Page 5, Monday, 24 May 1999

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Civil Defence system geared to be Y2K nerve centre By AMANDA WELLS CIVIL DEFENCE is confident that its "state of the art" monitoring system will ensure it can watch New Zealand's Year 2000 problems without being affected by the bug. According to sector support manager Fergus Power, several layers of contingency planning are in place to ensure that information on any incidents will be available to key groups. Mr Power says Civil Defence's system is "state of the art", and probably one of the most structured and ordered systems world-wide for reporting on services and states of emergency. A complex network of reporting has been developed, with information centralised on a computer system in the Beehive's national monitoring centre. Ideally, data from this system will be posted on the Internet, with maps illustrating where problems are, how many people are affected, and when supplies will resume. If the Internet and telecommunications systems fail, information will be communicated via the national civil defence radio network, which Mr Powell says "is not Y2K dependent". "If the Internet goes down, and telecommunications go down, that national radio system will stay online." The national emergency operations centre has its own power supply, with the Beehive also having an alternate power supply that can be accessed if necessary.

Toshiba laptops will run the geographic information system, allowing several hours of operation if all power supplies are exhausted. But Mr Power says Civil Defence's efforts should be interpreted as precautions, not predictions. "We're not expecting anything enormous, we're just making sure that we're well prepared if it does happen." The software in use has been deemed Y2K compliant, and all systems will be "double-checked again" before going live. National utilities report to the national emergency operations centre, with local utilities reporting to 16 regional Civil Defence centres, who then report to the emergency operations centre. Mr Power says the key on the night will be the form on which information is submitted. The single-page data form, which is also associated with a map, will be nationally consistent. "The data reporting form has been cunningly constructed, so that as that data goes on to the system it automatically triggers information into a preset pathway, so that red dots, for instance, would indicated that it is a Y2K-related incident." Once data from the forms is centralised, it will be put on to a geographic information system, divided into zones according to the census 1999 mesh blocks.

"That removes the necessity for an emergency service or utility provider to try and calculate the consequence of losses in the heat of the moment." Mr Power says a summary map will also be produced, combining all available information from utilities and emergency services. If the Internet is online, this information will be channelled through it. A restricted Web site accessible only by computers with specific IP addresses will keep regional monitoring centres, utilities, emergency services, territorial authorities and other key groups informed. Another site with less comprehensive information will be open to anyone. "It will have a subset of that data that is available to utilities and emergency services." The Internet interface displays a map of New Zealand divided into the 16 regional areas, with each area initially coloured green. If a region is considering declaring a civil emergency, it will turn orange, then red once the emergency is declared. "At a glance, people will be able to see the status of New Zealand, in terms of how `happy' it is on the night." The second status map will be a "shotgun blast" indicating where particular incidents are underway. Mr Power says Civil Defence recognises that others around the world will be interested in monitoring New Zealand's Y2K progress, and has designed its Web site to minimise band width consumption. Between 15 and 20 people will staff the national monitoring centre from December 31, 1999, with rotating shifts involving a total of about 60 people. Staff have been working on the project for about six weeks, with a geographic information systems software developer working on the system in-house. "A lot of thought's gone into the design so that the very act of creating a database creates switches in relation to the GIS information embedded in the database." Mr Power says he hopes the entire system will be ready for a trial on September 9, 1999 a date when problems may occur because it represents 9/9/99. Not all the information technology costs are coming out of Civil Defence's $100,000 budget for Y2K. Mr Power says services and time will be given in kind, and as the project will be a "life raft" for utilities, some have been generous with their support. "We don't anticipate any significant problems with respect to resourcing."

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-- Bob Barbour (, May 24, 1999

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