San Francisco Chronicle Writes 4 Preparedness & Y2K Grassroots Articles! (Amazable!!) : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Y2K CONNECTIONS - Disaster precautions unite neighbors
06/04/1999 - San Francisco Chronicle (INCLUDES IMAGE)

Y2K CONNECTIONS - Grassroots preparations strengthen North Bay community bonds
06/04/1999 - San Francisco Chronicle (INCLUDES IMAGE)

Y2K CONNECTIONS - Peninsula neighbors unite to protect against power outage, food shortage
06/04/1999 - San Francisco Chronicle (INCLUDES IMAGE)

Y2K CONNECTIONS - Preparing for worst brings out best in East Bay neighbors
06/04/1999 - San Francisco Chronicle (INCLUDES IMAGE)

Full-text to follow... soon.



-- Diane J. Squire (, June 05, 1999


[Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]

Article 1...

Disaster precautions unite neighbors
Sam McManis, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, June 4, 1999
)1999 San Francisco Chronicle article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1999/06/04/CC75716.DTL

A Brentwood homeowner is building a backyard pool -- not for swimming, but to hold his water supply during the Y2K aftermath. He also has a half dozen generators and enough diesel gas stacked in his garage to run them for several months if the power grid goes down. He recommends getting a tetanus shot before December 31 because, well, you never know.

A Concord man is erecting a vertical garden -- wood and iron trellises headed skyward

--at his home that promotes ``urban sustainability.'' He'll grow squash, tomatoes and strawberries, produce his local supermarket quickly may run out of during the Y2K aftermath.

An Orinda businessman, who sells disaster-preparedness kits, has a large water purifying system for his 2,200-gallon pond. As for cooking in the post-Y2K era, he has two words of advice: Dutch ovens.

By all appearances, these are average, rational Americans who are taking drastic measures they wouldn't have dreamed about before they learned about the year 2000 bug, the computer programming problem that could lead either to a brief technological glitch or widespread chaos come January 1.

Some Y2K activists don't trust the government. Some are skeptical of technology. They are your neighbors, and they belong to ideologically diverse groups that meet throughout Contra Costa and the Tri-Valley to educate the citizenry about how to avoid getting bitten by the Y2K bug.

With 211 days left until 2000, most residents don't seem concerned about a Millennial meltdown. A recent Chronicle poll of Bay Area residents shows that only one in five expects major problems from the Y2K bug. But the people who join community Y2K groups are more anxious than apathetic. What some might call paranoia they call prudence. They say, come winter, more people will join their cause when they realize we might not be Y2AO-K.


Twenty people, mostly married couples and seniors, sit in straight- back metal chairs in a room adjacent to a Baptist church in Concord. At 7 p.m. sharp, a burly man with a bushy brown beard walks to the front of the room, takes a pen out of a black briefcase with the sticker ``I don't believe the Liberal Media'' taped to the front, and smiles.

He is Mark Zapalik, Brentwood resident and director of the Traditional Values Coalition of Contra Costa County. He tells the assemblage that this is the one-year anniversary of the first Y2K information meeting he's presided over.

``All I'm trying to do is bring you the truth as I know it to be,'' he says. ``There's a real concerted effort in major media to soft-peddle (Y2K), sweet talk it, paint a rosy picture that, as of this day, I don't think is warranted.''

Zapalik turns and writes ``256 days'' in red ink on a board.

``We're running out of days,'' he says, walking to the VCR. ``This film you are going to see is something I put together using secular and Christian material. I'll answer questions after it's over.''

The group falls silent for a prayer, then stands for the Pledge of Allegiance. The lights dim and the video begins with a narrator's deep baritone:

``What if you knew the future? What if you knew the coming of a catastrophic event? . . . (Footage of nuclear explosions, flowing volcanoes, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes flash across the screen.)

``The very heart of Western civilization is electrical power, but what if America suffered a heart seizure and the centralized national power grid failed? The lights of our great cities will go out . . . . Will we see a repeat of the 1929 bank failure? FDIC insurance or not, we are all still at risk, all of us . . . (Grainy, black-and-white footage of Depression-era bank runs are shown.)

``What would happen if entitlement checks were frozen? What would happen to the inner cities? Would they implode? . . . (Cut to clips from race riots.)

``Try to imagine all of these events happening at once. I know, you probably think it's impossible, but it's true! We are running headlong into a technological hurricane. In the expanse of human history, nothing this big has been this predictable with this much precision. What we don't know is how hard it'll hit and what magnitude of devastation it will bring. You must act now.''

The remaining 45 minutes of the video features excerpts from media reports by ``60 Minutes,'' the Christian Broadcasting Network, ABC's ``World News Tonight'' and interviews with Y2K experts about the government's failings to address millennial issues.

At one point, televangelist Pat Robertson interviews one of his channel's correspondents. ``We're going to be in a period of hardship, I believe for several years,'' the correspondent says. Robertson nods, says: ``One of the key themes of Y2K will be survival of the fittest.''

Video over, Zapalik touches on subjects ranging from stockpiling dry food, to purifying water to sanitation issues to protecting families from looters. Over the next hour, Zapalik also tells a little about his personal preparation. He has generators stacked in his garage and six 55-gallon drums of diesel fuel ``right underneath my kids' bedroom. But it's safe. Diesel doesn't explode.''

He is building a pool ``because it's the cheapest way to store 16,000 gallons of drinking water.'' He also says he's thinking of selling his house ``with a two-year lease back because the real estate will slump and cash will be king.''

Before opening the floor to questions, Zapalik introduces Michael Jay, a Concord man whose views are to the right of the Traditional Values Coalition.

``Mark asked me not to scare you, but this is not a roller coaster ride and you won't be able to get off,'' he says.

Jay tells the group that Y2K chaos will lead ``our martial-law government'' to forcibly intern residents in relocation camps and that he plans to hold a public meeting to discuss ``options.'' He said he planned to show a video, ``America, Wake Up or Waco.''

Zapalik then answers questions. A couple asks about Social Security checks. A young woman asks about the safety of her IRA account. A man asks about the advantages of butane versus propane gas for cooking. An older woman raises her hand -- to make a statement, not ask a question.

``Maybe I shouldn't get a generator. I mean, if I'm the only one who has some type of light, then people might come after me. I am scared.''

Zapalik: ``We can't hide under the covers and say, `Oh, it'll be OK when I wake up on New Year's Day because there are computer programmers and Billy Clinton's in charge.' A certain amount of fear about the danger of this to us is a wise thing.''


The idea was to dispel fears of massive utility and telecommunications outages by going to the source -- the people actually working on exterminating the millennium bug from computer systems.

So, in April, the Chamber of Commerce in San Ramon organized a community forum featuring 15 speakers, ranging from executives from Pacific Bell to Pacific Gas and Electric to Chevron, the Bank of Walnut Creek and the San Ramon Regional Medical Center.

Each speaker had five minutes to outline her or his agency or company's Y2K plans. The consensus: No problem, this bug will be squashed well before New Year's Day.

``Ladies and gentlemen,'' Paul Morsen of the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District told the crowd, ``I want to assure you that you can flush without any problems. I don't think gravity's going to be affected by Y2K.''

Speaker and speaker detailed million-dollar plans under way to make their agencies and businesses Y2K compliant. But the crowd stirred uncomfortably when PG&E spokesman Ron Wetter said he could not ``absolutely guarantee'' that there won't be power outages.

The atmosphere became even more tense during the question- and-answer period.

Chevron's Wally Kresley was asked: ``What happens at gas stations if there's electrical outages. How do we pump gas?''

``The short answer is we won't,'' he said. ``We can't possibly provide generators at all of our service stations.''

Michael Thompson of the Bank of Walnut Creek was asked: ``What will happen if European banks do not become compliant?''

``Buy U.S. dollars,'' he said, laughing.

Afterward, many in the crowd said they were reassured, but some still had doubts.

``There are going to be problems, but not as bad as everyone thinks,'' said San Ramon resident Dick Williams. ``I'll keep a week's supply of food. But I'm not panicking. Tonight gives me some peace of mind.''

Kathy Davidson, also of San Ramon, said she works in data processing and is not concerned.

``We'll all just have to wait and see what happens,'' she said. ``I'm more concerned about getting New Year's Eve reservations. I hear Disneyland's already booked.''


Motorists used to have to look hard to find Yellow Dog Mercantile, a store selling camping and hiking gear, on one of Orinda's busiest streets.

Not anymore. A large sign hangs from the awning saying ``Y2K Preparedness Center.'' In the display window sit big blue 55-gallon water storage drums, flashlights, water purifiers, prepackaged meals and portable toilet seats.

Y2K, it turns out, has been a business boon.

``One day last fall, a woman walks in the store and says, `Is this the place I heard about that sells Y2K preparedness material?' '' said Kerri Lyall, daughter-in-law of store owner Walter Lyall. ``I told her that we sold earthquake preparedness supplies, but it got us thinking.''

By January, the store had increased its stock of survival supplies and added additional items relating to Y2K issues, such as long-term water drums and purifiers.

``Sales have kind of gone in spurts,'' Kerri said. ``We got a rush in January, but now it's slow. I'd say in September we won't be able to keep this stuff in stock.''

Yellow Dog Mercantile is an offshoot of Walter Lyall's home security company, AHM Securities, Inc. But Lyall treats it more than just a side business. He was a survival instructor with the U.S. Army in the '60s and a deputy Alameda County sheriff for 17 years. Walter says he isn't concerned about the millennium bug because he is always ready for disasters.

``In survival school, the biggest thing you learn is to anticipate the need,'' he said. ``I'd suggest to people to practice your survival skills. Everyone should take his family through a drill once a month on a weekend. Get a good Dutch oven and learn how to cook over an open fire. People forget how to use old-fashioned things.''

Lyall says people who frequent his store for Y2K supplies sometimes ``get emotional'' about the issue.

``I had an Oakland police officer come in and buy six 55-gallon drums because he's going to hole up in the hills of Livermore during Y2K,'' he said. ``Then there was a lady from Piedmont who called and asked if her locks were Y2K compliant. I told her there were no microchips imbedded in her locks.

``Personally, I'm still more concerned about earthquakes. But I guess everybody has to figure out what their fears are.''


Six o'clock came and went, and Bruce Baumrucker still waited at a Concord office park for somebody, anybody to come to the latest meeting of his group, Y2K Contra Costa. With each passing minute, he looked more crestfallen.

``Y2K will be like the guy contemplating his own hanging in the morning,'' he said. ``He says, `It's amazing how it focuses the mind.' As time gets closer, people will pay more attention.''

Baumrucker and a handful of other county residents have been meeting twice monthly since January. Usually, he said, about 30 people show, especially when the group features a speaker from a utilities company.

Not on this night. Baumrucker had the Robert Stack-narrated Y2K video all cued up. His supply of Utne Reader ``Y2K Citizen's Action Guides'' were neatly stacked. He had brought a box full of canned and dried foods to show folks what to get and how to store it.

Eventually, Baumrucker was joined by five other members of the organization's steering committee. And, close to 7 p.m., two women from Martinez walk in. Later, they will be joined by a Concord housewife.

This Y2K group, founded by Baumrucker and Pleasant Hill resident Doris Copperman, not only provides information on basic disaster preparedness, but advocates community involvement on a grass- roots level because group members believe government and big business cannot be counted on in a crisis as large as they think the Y2K problem may be.

``How do we get our neighbors interested?'' Baumrucker asked the group, sitting around a circular table. ``It's hard to get people to prepare for something like this when you've been taken care of by the system all this time. We live in a denial society. People are poo- pooing Y2K even though the government is spending billions to fix the bug.''

Copperman said most of the people who join this group, nonsectarian and apolitical, are skeptical of ``the system.''

``I can't put my faith into somebody doing things for me,'' she said. ``I've found that too many times in my life that I can't accept what somebody tells me, like that this Y2K bug is no big deal. I want to feel like I did all I could for myself and the people around me so that I won't feel like a victim.''

One of the group's stumbling blocks has been apathy. Another: being labeled extremists simply for caring about the effects of the millennium bug.

``Look,'' said Daren Henderson, a Clayton man on the steering committee, ``we are practical, reasonable, responsible adults who are taking time out of their lives for basic preparedness. We hope we can have conversations with our neighbors where the first word out of our mouths can be `Y2K' and it doesn't send them running thinking we're survivalists or some type of religious freaks.''

Baumrucker says he doesn't want to be labeled a neo-Luddite, but he believes our society has become too reliant upon modern conveniences.

``Our grandparents knew all about canning and storing food,'' he said. ``We've become so dependent on these giant complex systems that we don't know how to live without them. You shut off power in San Francisco for eight hours, and you've got chaos.''

The group does more than engage in philosophical ponderings. Each meeting covers practical things citizens can do to prepare for what might happen on January 1.

On this night, Baumrucker and Henderson brought an example of a food box that can sustain a family for seven days. Baumrucker also talked about building a sustainable ``vertical garden.'' Joy Lasseter, a Berkeley nutritionist, talked about the proper way to store food -- in glass jars or hard plastic, away from exposed light

--and the essentials of butane camping stoves versus pit barbecues with propane gas.

``Canned foods are great,'' Lasseter said. ``But make sure you have a manual can opener, because an electric one isn't going to do you much good when the power goes out.''

The group laughed. Then Baumrucker turned serious.

``This could be a great opportunity for communities to work together,'' he said. ``There seems a barrier between thinking and doing when it comes to something like Y2K. We need to cross that barrier -- before Jan. 1.''


The Federal Emergency Management Agency makes the following recommendations:


-- Wheat: 20 pounds

-- Powdered Milk (for babies): 20 pounds

-- Corn: 20 pounds

-- Iodized Salt: 1 pound

-- Soybeans: 10 pounds

-- Vitamin C: 15 grams


-- Keep food in the driest and coolest spot in the house, a dark area if possible.

-- Keep food covered at all times. Open food boxes or cans carefully so that you can close them tightly after each use. Wrap cookies and crackers in plastic bags, and keep them in tight containers.

-- Inspect all food containers regularly for signs of spoilage and before use. Use foods before they go bad and replace them with fresh supplies, dated with ink or marker.


-- Water: 1 gallon per person, per day.

-- Water Purification kit.

-- First aid kit and book.

-- Can opener (nonelectric)

-- Blankets or sleeping bags

-- Portable radio, flashlight, spare batteries

-- Cash and change

-- Large plastic trash bags for waste, tarps, rain ponchos

-- Electricity generator.

-- Source: FEMA


-- Y2K Contra Costa: Doris Copperman (925) 229-4105; e-mail:; Web site:

-- Traditional Values Coalition: Mark Zapalik (925) 516-0152; P.O. Box 1352, Brentwood, Calif. 94513.

-- Coco 2000: Serving County Businesses. Amy Knight (925) 685-6279; Web site:

-- Orinda Y2K Group: Susan Strong. (925) 254-7198.


Are you preparing for a possible millennial meltdown by growing a community garden, stacking generators in a condominium center basement, setting up a neighborhood watch group?

Or do you think all those activities are ridiculous?

The Friday section wants to know what -- if anything -- families and communities are doing to combat utilities and telecommunications failures that might occur on January 1, 2000 because of the Y2K computer bug.

Send your comments to San Francisco Chronicle, Friday Section Y2K, 2737 N. Main St., Suite 100, Walnut Creek, Calif. 94596. Phone: (800) 350-4840. Fax: (800) 340-5940. E-mail:

)1999 San Francisco Chronicle

-- Diane J. Squire (, June 05, 1999.

[Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]

Article 2...

Grassroots preparations strengthen North Bay community bonds
George Snyder, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, June 4, 1999
)1999 San Francisco Chronicle article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1999/06/04/NB23281.DTL

Y2K? Why not?

That is the consensus of many grassroots Y2K-preparation groups throughout Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties: Why not use the concern raised by a computer bug as the impetus to unite neighbors and to strengthen community bonds?

``We don't know what is going to happen,'' said Amy Lemmer, a resident of nearby Camp Meeker, a cramped hillside community that often has faced lengthy power failures and isolation due to winter flooding.

``Y2K might not even be the thing. There could be something else, but we need to take this opportunity to re-examine where we are, and I think the next thing is to prepare the community to be able to take care of itself as well as each other.''

Lemmer, a former Harmony School District board member in west Sonoma County, has been involved in community organizing for years. She said the Y2K-inspired community meetings that have sprouted across the North Bay prove a point.

``What we have discovered is that many people, when you go out and ask, are turned off by talk of Y2K,'' Lemmer said. ``But if you start talking about building communities and neighborhood networks, they suddenly get interested because it all comes back to the same thing. What do we do as a community in any kind of an emergency.

``As a matter of fact the local fire guys were cynical about Y2K but when it got around to taking care of the community, they really got into it.''

As a result of local meetings and discussions with emergency-service officials, including the volunteer fire department, the group has come up with committees on community gardens, emergency-needs assessment and other topics.

And tomorrow, Lemmer said, she and other volunteers will conduct a door-to-door ``Walk Around the Neighborhood'' to celebrate and honor the community.


Food production is a major concern of Sebastopol farmer Shepherd Bliss, particularly if Y2K disrupts the delivery of produce to markets far away.

``I've gone from ignoring all of it -- total denial -- then shifted totally after talking with people I knew in the computer world late last year,'' Bliss said.

Since then, he has been preparing not only for himself, but for others in the community.

``I'm not stockpiling food,'' he said. ``The best preparation is connecting with your neighbors and those you know. Y2K has encouraged me to strengthen my own community ties by consolidating old relationships and establishing new ones. Now I actually feel secure.''

Bliss said he has been giving tours and Y2K talks at his property, Kokopelli Farms.

``Most people are disconnected from their food sources, and it gives me a chance to help people understand where their food comes from and how they might be able to produce some of their own, not only for the short run, but for the future,'' Bliss said. ``I'm having some of my friends come out to help me farm so that they can learn to farm. And if need be, we could all farm here together.''

When Natalie Peck of Petaluma first heard about Y2K and its potentially dire effects, she didn't know what to make of it. Peck ultimately founded a Petaluma Y2K group after attending a forum on the subject last fall in Santa Rosa.

``It wasn't hard,'' she said. ``My business is putting together conferences and seminars. I organized the first meeting in January and invited the city's Y2K planner to come and speak. Others have come up, and we've formed a group to hold forums on the issue.''

Forums used to draw more than a hundred people, but attendance since has dropped, in part because of a decline in media coverage on the issue, she said.

``People have gotten a little more complacent,'' Peck said. ``The government is telling them not to worry. I don't think there will be any major breakdown here, but internationally there are countries unable to fix the problem, and supply chains are going to be impacted. Small businesses here will have problems in many cases, and the impacts might be more long-term.''

Peck has taken steps to ensure her personal safety, like storing water, food, flashlights and other gear. But more important to her is that ``people are starting to do neighborhood organizing.''

``We can all be personally prepared, but our neighbors should be equally prepared so that we can take care of each other,'' Peck said. ``We'll have the elderly, the poor, those without English as a first language. I think that regardless of what happens or what degree Y2K shows up, it can only serve us well to have more communication with neighbors and friends and being prepared for any disaster like flood, fire or earthquake.''

Peck points to an emerging concept called ``the resilient community.''

``It's a whole movement on the Internet about how we need other people in our lives, how communities can interact,'' she says. ``It's not just police and fire but how do we look at our schools and faith communities and your neighbors.

``We have lost community living because life has become so fast, and we prize our individual independence. But you don't want to introduce yourself to your neighbor at 2 a.m. when a mudslide hits your house.''


If information is key to avoiding fear, then Alan Jones and his wife, Donna, both early Y2K organizers in Santa Rosa, have been doing their part to douse potential flames of panic. They have instituted what they call ``practice days.''

``It's one day in the last weekend of every other month,'' Jones said, ``where you can't use your lights or your electric stove, but you use your kerosene lamps and camping stoves, for example.''

They also have drawn up Y2K preparation guidelines that he has circulated to friends and local Y2K groups, many of which are part of a network called Sonoma Y2K.

Marin Y2K Action, another grassroots effort, has been busy working with county officials to put out a Y2K guide to be distributed countywide in early summer, a Y2K video for the public library and kits showing how to organize neighborhoods.

``We have a mailing list of about 200 people. Perhaps 50 of them are active in the community,'' said Jennifer Rienks, a researcher for the University of San Francisco and president of the board of the Marin Social Justice Center.

``We have a lot of resources to help people organize and have been holding large public meetings,'' she said. ``In addition, there are a bunch of groups and people trying to start a Y2K group in every town and part of Marin.''

Some major concerns, she said, come from the nonprofit sector.

``What happens if the people who are feeding the poor and the homeless lose their resources?'' she said. ``Who takes care of the mentally infirm? This is where the community comes in.

``Personally I'm making sure the camp stove works and have been stocking up on food and water containers, as well as doing my gardening, enough for a couple of weeks anyway.''


That kind of grassroots preparation is key for Mary Beth Brangan, founder of the Bolinas Y2K group.

``We don't even talk about what might happen,'' said Brangan, co- owner of a film- and video-making firm. ``We are focusing on what we want to do as a community anyway: make ourselves a sustainable community.

``The antidote for today's dysfunctional culture and the preparation for disruptions are the same. We need to start building more sustainable structures and relationships and techologies. That's the whole thrust in the long run with this. Go back into the local community, keep the money in the local community with community-based businesses and local credit unions.''

The Bolinas Y2K group, she said, started with a lecture by author Michael Shuman, a friend from Washington, D.C. He talked about his book ``Going Local: Creating Self- Reliant Communities in a Global Age.''

Her group meets twice a month and averages about 50 people, if there are speakers. Members have met with Bolinas and county officials, and have set up a disaster council that goes through each neighborhood to see if residents might need special help.

``We can build upon that to look into the future, beyond Y2K, and into the resilient-community aspect,'' she said.

Brangan said that Y2K preparedness means more than merely stocking up on food and water. It's about strengthening community self-reliance.

``Of course each person should prepare their own household and to a certain degree be prepared as much as possible, but we have some extremely wealthy people here and some very poor,'' she said. ``Let's pool resources for everyone. People will think of new ways of doing things if they get the information and aren't afraid of one another.''


The Federal Emergency Management Agency makes the following recommendations:


Stock per person, per month:

-- Wheat: 20 pounds

-- Powdered milk (for babies): 20 pounds

-- Corn: 20 pounds

-- Iodized salt: 1 pound

-- Soybeans: 10 pounds

-- Vitamin C: 15 grams


--Keep food in the driest and coolest spot in the house, a dark area if possible.

-- Keep food covered at all times. Open food boxes or cans carefully so that you can close them tightly after each use. Wrap cookies and crackers in plastic bags, and keep them in tight containers.

--Inspect all food containers regularly for signs of spoilage and before use. Use foods before they go bad and replace them with fresh supplies, dated with ink or marker.


-- Water: 1 gallon per person, per day

-- Water purification kit

-- First aid kit and book

-- Can opener (nonelectric)

-- Blankets or sleeping bags

-- Portable radio, flashlight, spare batteries

-- Cash and change

-- Large plastic trash bags for waste, tarps, rain ponchos

-- Electricity generator

Source: FEMA


Here are some North Bay Y2K Web sites:

-- Marin:, with meetings and updates on Y2K.

-- Sonoma: y2k

-- Napa:

-- for nationwide information, links and updates.

R U OK 4 Y2K?

Are you preparing for a possible millennial meltdown by growing a community garden, stacking generators in a condominium center basement, setting up a neighborhood watch group?

Or do you think all those activities are ridiculous?

The Friday section wants to know what -- if anything -- families and communities are doing to prepare for the utilities and telecommunications failures that might occur on January 1, 2000, because of the Y2K computer bug.

Send your comments to The San Francisco Chronicle, Friday Section Y2K, 901 Mission St., San Francisco, Calif. 94103. Phone: (800) 350-4840. Fax: (800) 340-5940. E-mail:

)1999 San Francisco Chronicle

-- Diane J. Squire (, June 05, 1999.

This is insanity. As Infomagic has pointed out, the first and most important rule for Y2K survival is "location, location, location". Everything being done is being done right, but in the wrong place. A la Paul Milne, these people are toast, regardless of these efforts.

-- King of Spain (, June 05, 1999.


It's better than news media silence on Y2K!

Not many people will choose to leave Silicon Valley, so they better start getting ready, IMHO. Without the media support... NOTHING happens here.


(Maybe "crisp" toast?)

-- Diane J. Squire (, June 05, 1999.

[Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]

Article 3...

Peninsula neighbors unite to protect against power outage, food shortage
Friday, June 4, 1999
)1999 San Francisco Chronicle article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1999/06/04/PN69957.DTL

Lauralee Harkness doesn't know what to expect when the clock ticks 12:01 a.m. on New Year's Day. But if the Y2K computer glitch makes the power go out, takes the phones down or causes municipal computer systems to go haywire, she and her neighbors have a battle plan.

During the past year, Harkness and her husband, Larry, have organized Canada Cove, the 360-unit mobile home park where they live just south of Half Moon Bay, into a well-oiled operation.

The park is divided into eight zones, with team captains who will check on the welfare of residents.

Residents' names and medical needs, as well as the emergency tools they have and the pets they own, are listed on index cards in a box in the Harkness home.

Larry Harkness, a communications specialist by profession, has drilled team captains and others up and down the coastside weekly on the operation of two-way radio handsets. With a range of two miles, the devices will allow for communication in case phone service is disrupted.

About six months before the year changes, fear and uncertainty about Y2K and its effect on daily life have combined to drive a small but growing segment of the Peninsula to brace for the worst.

``We're preparing people, not scaring people,'' Lauralee Harkness said.

The decision to gird against power outages, food shortages and general calamity flies in the face of public sentiment.

Only one in five Bay Area residents expects a major problem related to the Y2K bug on January 1, according to a recent Chronicle poll.

Many Silicon Valley high-tech and Bay Area government officials declare that repairs are well under way to prevent disruptions in everyday life.


Some of the most intensive resident-led response plans are being laid in Half Moon Bay, San Mateo, Menlo Park and Palo Alto.

Over backyard fences and pancake breakfasts, at church meetings and homeowners' get-togethers, retirees, computer company employees and other residents are discussing what they have gleaned from the media, the Internet and conversations with city officials.

At Canada Cove, for example, residents talking to city officials learned that in the event of a long- term power failure, water, sewage and food supplies could be threatened. Harkness said grocery officials told them that stores contain only three days' worth of supplies because stores no longer have warehouses inside of them.

Harkness, who has a medical condition requiring electric-powered air filters that run 24 hours a day, had her husband rig a bank of solar- powered 12-volt batteries to the roof.

She has attended emergency preparedness classes offered by the city of San Mateo and is writing a disaster manual for all 500 residents of the mobile home park. More than 100 are registered to participate in the emergency preparedness program.

Harkness doesn't mind if others regard her as foolish.

``I've been considered foolish all my life,'' she said. ``I believe I have the ability to see things a little sooner than others do. . . . I want to keep the momentum going.''

David Wick, a resident of the San Mateo Park neighborhood at the border of San Mateo and Hillsborough, said 35 families from both cities got together for a Y2K meeting. Many elected to take the classes offered by the city of San Mateo, and are sharing what they have learned with others.

Like Canada Cove, the primary task is setting up a communications plan for the area, including the purchase of two-way radios. Wick has a generator for lighting his home and running his refrigerator and is amassing five-gallon jugs of water and canned vegetarian food.

One of the most important lessons he learned in the classes was how police and fire officials are spread thin in times of emergency, and how the public shouldn't rely solely on them for help.


Tammy Raetz, who works for a weekly paper in Menlo Park, took preparations a step further this past winter with her husband and three children.

The children were studying pioneers at school, so the family decided to live without power or gas for a week. They cooked their food over a camp stove in the garage and did without hot water from the tap. For baths, they filled buckets from the garden hose and poured them into the bathtub, heating a few gallons over the stove long enough to take off the chill.

For reading at night, they used oil lamps purchased from a discount store. To get warm, they huddled around the fireplace.

In the short term, Raetz said, ``it was fun.''

But roughing it took its toll: The family returned to creature comforts after five days.

Raetz organized a public meeting on Y2K issues in January, and another last month at the Menlo Park City Council chambers.

She and her husband also are pushing their church, Bethany Lutheran, to consider the needs of the elderly, hoping to persuade churchgoers to stock extra food to share.

It was the older people on her block who were the most open- minded about her ideas, she said, perhaps because of their experiences during the Depression and World War II.

``It's been a difficult year trying to get people educated about it, because most people are resistant. They don't think anything is going to happen,'' Raetz said.


In Palo Alto, the Barron Park neighborhood is also taking the threat of Y2K and disaster seriously.

It should come as no surprise, since the enclave of 1,400 homes and apartments has a history of such action.

In 1987, the neighborhood simulated a toxic spill and evacuated to a nearby high school. Residents repeat the drill this year, with a twist: pretending there's a flood that coincides with Y2K troubles.

In Barron Park, the talk revolves around what will happen if stoplights with embedded computer chips fail, or how residents will get power from the city-owned utilities if the power grid fails.

``It doesn't jump from its source at the Shasta Dam to here,'' said Art Bayce, a retired engineering teacher from San Jose State, who heads the area's emergency preparedness committee. ``It travels though PG&E lines and whatever else to get to the Palo Alto utilities. What do you do in the meantime?''

Although many are taking a pragmatic look at Y2K, some also are taking a philosophical view. The problem-solving is giving neighbors a reason to reach out and talk to one another. The problem has brought the community together.

``Most times, you'll find your neighbors are very nice,'' Bayce said.

For Wick of San Mateo, it's an opportunity to re-evaluate life's priorities.

``We have great technology, and I'm in favor of that, but let's keep it in balance with the need for human connections that must be there for us to survive and thrive,'' Wick said.


Pat Jocius, director of emergency services for Santa Clara County, offers these tips for Y2K and disaster preparations:

-- Food: Buy canned or nonperishable foods that don't require heating, such as granola bars, chili, baked beans, and tuna. Figure on one gallon of water per person per day. Include water for pets. Buy foods that you would normally eat, unlike military rations, so it doesn't go to waste.

-- Cooking: Consider barbecues and camping cookstoves for outdoor use. Never use briquets and proprane-type fuels indoors, as they emit poisonous gases that can be fatal.

-- Lighting: Stock up on candles, kerosene- or battery-powered lanterns, flashlights and extra batteries.

-- Heating: Use the fireplace, gather extra blankets.

-- Toiletries: Stock water for washing up, brushing teeth, boiling food. Consider purchase of a camping toilet, in the event water lines malfunction or break.

-- Generators: Cost varies, can run up to $1,000, especially for larger models needed to run household appliances. Require more fuel than most city ordinances permit safe storage of in small gasoline cans. Noisy, pollution-producing.

-- Personal finances: Keep cash on hand in small denominations. If power fails, credit cards and ATM cards may not work. Electricity- dependent cash registers may not open. Price gouging is illegal, but there are no guarantees it won't happen.

-- Neighborhood communications: Get to know your neighbors. Identify the elderly, those with special medical needs such as electrically operated dialysis machines or important prescriptions. Arrange a telephone tree. Set up neighborhood block captains. Consider purchase of two-way radio systems.

)1999 San Francisco Chronicle

-- Diane J. Squire (, June 05, 1999.

Thank you Diane!

Think about a local meeting, I will help...Think about it.


-- helium (, June 05, 1999.

[Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]

Article 4...

Preparing for worst brings out best in East Bay neighbors
Laura Hamburg
Friday, June 4, 1999
)1999 San Francisco Chronicle article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1999/06/04/EB59EB6.DTL

When the clock strikes midnight on December 31, thousands of East Bay residents will toast the new year surrounded by bins of stored bulk food and gallon jugs of water.

Instead of saying, Armageddon out of here, and fleeing to the hills to ride out whatever nasty surprises the year 2000 problem sends our way, some people find preparing for Y2K is deflating panic and bringing them closer to their neighbors.

Dozens of Y2K neighborhood groups are springing up around the East Bay. They meet in kitchens and living rooms to swap information on what to do if there is an electrical blackout or if water becomes scarce. They swap information on where to buy hand-crank radios and cheap batteries and distribute the Y2K Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency's recommendations for storing food and water.

They don't try to predict whether Y2K is going to wreak havoc or hardly register a blip on the annoyance meter.

Instead, they teach one another to prepare for Y2K, the way they would an earthquake or fire.

And sometimes in the process, they learn the names of neighbors they've lived next to for years -- which comes in handy when the guy next door is an electrician and he's got some ideas on what to do if the power putters out.

Bruce Gardiner, a 47-year-old Berkeley electrician with a Scottish accent, said he attended a few city town hall meetings about Y2K but found the onslaught of information overwhelming.

So he decided to think small by concentrating on his own home. He is now in the process of Y2K-izing his four-unit apartment building on Grant Street.

He installed six 50-watt solar electric panels on the roof in case the power dies, bought five 55-gallon drums for storing water and is working with his tenants to put in a winter garden in the back yard.

The solar panels will provide enough energy in each apartment to feed two compact fluorescent lights, radios, telephone answering machines and to recharge dry-cell batteries for flashlights.

Gardiner also is bolstering his apartment with enough battery-operated power to fuel his refrigerator, in which tenants will be able to store basic food items.

``I've also made quite a few preparations in the way of storing food for myself,'' he said. ``But I will have enough food stored should other people need it.''

He's now gearing up for a series of meetings in his living room with his tenants and neighbors to figure out how together they can weather any Y2K disruptions. ``I am trying to organize our block not just for Y2K, but also for earthquakes,'' he said. ``I am constantly surprised how unprepared people are for earthquakes given where we live.''

His idea is to put together a list of neighbors -- noting who has special skills and who has tools like chain saws, hammers, flashlights -- so everyone can share resources.

The idea is to try to make the preparation a social event. ``People get really burned out at these dull meetings,'' he said. ``So I'd really like to have a block party with my neighbors later on this summer.

``Even if this Y2K stuff comes to nothing and we sail through without a glitch, the preparation is not going to waste,'' Gardiner said. ``We can give the food to the homeless. And what's worth even more than physical preparation is just knowing you can count on your neighbors. That gives you a real sense of security.''


In Oakland's Hiller Highlands neighborhood, folks learned about neighborhood cooperation when the 1991 firestorm roared through their community, killing 25 people and annihilating thousands of homes.

Sue Piper, who lost her home in the fire and has since rebuilt it, said knowing your neighbor and organizing for any disaster, whether it's fire, earthquake or Y2K before it hits, is key.

Shortly before the fire, Piper's neighbor was chatting with another neighbor who mentioned he was not going to be home that day because he was playing piano at a local hospital. Hours later, when the fire swept through the neighborhood, Piper's neighbor remembered the piano player had an elderly mother who was an invalid and spoke only Chinese. Knowing she was home alone, he broke down the door and carried her out of the burning house, saving her life.

Since the fire, Piper and most of her neighbors have trained for emergencies through the city's CORE program -- Citizens of Oakland Respond to Emergencies. The Hiller Highlands neighborhood is now organized into 50-home preparation units. Block captains update lists of who lives in each house, who is disabled or elderly, who has children or pets. People are assigned tasks in the event of emergency and there is a communal storage shed full of disaster supplies.

``Y2K could be disaster. So we are going to go door to door in September to remind people they should be stocking food and water,'' Piper said.

There's been a lot of concern that people could get themselves so worked up over Y2K that they make the problem worse by overreacting. What if there are long lines of cars waiting to get filled up at the gas pump? What if people clean out grocery stores and empty out their savings accounts in a last-minute Y2K frenzy?

``But people don't panic when they're educated,'' said Chuck Eckerman, director of Oakland Prepared Neighbors, a Y2K education and resource group now working with Oakland 2001, another grassroots Y2K group in partnership with the City of Oakland.

Eckerman, a computer consultant, first became aware of the Y2K computer problem when he worked for a Silicon Valley computer firm in the early '80s.

He said the Y2K problem hit home for him years later when an 80-year- old friend and neighbor asked, ``What is Y2K? I don't need to worry about this right? Because I don't own a computer.''

Eckerman said, ``That really affected me. I started realizing that people didn't know that Y2K problems can disrupt traffic lights, city payroll departments, welfare checks, Social Security checks, ATM machines.''

Eckerman now volunteers most of his time running Oakland Prepared Neighbors and encouraging people to prepare for Y2K.

In the end, no one knows what's going to happen when the clock rolls past midnight on January 31, said Deborah Reisman, emergency planning coordinator with the city's CORE program. But Reisman's mantra is the same as Eckerman's and the Red Cross and FEMA: Prepare, slowly over time.

``You can talk to 10 so-called computer experts and get a doom-and- gloom picture and then 10 others will tell you it's going to be nothing,'' Reisman said. ``My own opinion is that it's going to be somewhere in between.''

The difference, she said, between Y2K and earthquake and fire preparation is Y2K's non-negotiable deadline. In some ways it's a blessing, Reisman said, because communities have a six-month ``heads- up.''

``We tell people, buy a stash of batteries this week, a flashlight next week,'' she said. ``A couple of days before the clock rolls over don't let your gas tank get below half. Make sure you have at least a week's worth of food. The lesson is be prepared,'' she said. ``If nothing comes of it then you'll have your stuff ready for the next earthquake.''

Lois Jones, co-founder of Berkeley Y2K Resiliency Network, hopes that in the aftermath of Y2K, people can build a culture that is more communal and less reliant on the global market economy.

The Berkeley group works with the city to educate residents on how to prepare for Y2K. But, at its core, many members are hopeful Y2K will tweak people's consciousness, too.

``If we can strike the opportunity note instead of the fear note around Y2K and remind people about solar power, bulk food buying and gardening,'' said Jones, a retired City of Berkeley planner. ``If we can buy local, support our businesses as much as we can and begin to rely more on each other. If we can think more the way Indians do in terms of how what we do now impacts seven generations after us, then Y2K can be very positive.''

The Berkeley group will be doing a citywide mailing in a couple of months containing the California state Office of Emergency Services preparation recommendations for Y2K. Like most professional emergency agencies, OES has upgraded its recommendations on Y2K from three days of stored food and water to seven.


To prepare for a shortage of produce, some East Bay residents are turning to their own back yards or the decks of their apartments. Planting a vegetable and herb garden, especially if neighbors build a community garden, can yield a bounty of fresh food.

Val Peters of Berkeley teaches workshops on how to plant a vegetable garden using recycled plastic buckets. She recommends asking restaurants or bakeries for their used 5-gallon containers. Drill a few holes in the bottom, then fill the container with soil for an instant planter.

Like many people now thinking about Y2K, the magnitude of the problem didn't dawn on Peters right away. ``I hadn't even intended to get involved in this, but then I heard someone from Andronico's grocery store talk about how they only have around three days worth of fresh food stored on the shelves at a time. And I started wondering what would happen if there was a distribution problem,'' she said.

Peters and San Lorenzo resident Judith Welter had similar experiences about becoming interested in Y2K. Both women suddenly realized preparing for Y2K seemed the only sane thing do.

For Welter, a full-time artist and part-time house cleaner who lives with her daughter, one day Y2K was the furthest thing from her mind and the next day she was storing food and talking about it to anyone who would listen.

``When I first heard about it, I was like this deer in the headlights. I became this fruitcake. I had to learn as much as I could about Y2K,'' she said with throaty laugh. ``So I downloaded information from the Internet and went to the copy store to make packets for anyone who would take them.''

When she went to copy store counter to fork over $20 to pay for the pile of copies, the clerk asked what the information was for. ``When I told him it was copies about Y2K, he said, `Never mind the $20 -- it's free.' ''

``A kindred soul,'' she said.

She still doles out her Y2K packets to anyone who's interested. ``I try to lay low and be very calm about it. You can't force people to believe you. You just have to give them information and let them make up their own mind,'' she said.

Pennie Opal Plant, a Richmond resident and small business owner, started thinking about Y2K when she received a notice from her business insurer that it wouldn't cover commercial losses due to Y2K computer problems.

``Before I got that in the mail I didn't think much about Y2K,'' Plant said. ``I thought, `Oh, they'll fix it. It's no big deal.' ''

Now, she and about 10 of her neighbors have organized a Y2K neighborhood awareness group. The group got a late start -- it's only been active for a month. But already it's grabbed the attention of the City of Richmond.

Members of the group, the Richmond Neighborhoods Y2K Resource Network, spoke at a recent Richmond City Council meeting and inspired the city's mayor to convene a Y2K task force to investigate how city services might be impacted.

But neighborhood organizers say spreading the word about Y2K is tough. Most of the groups are made up of a core of volunteers who shell out their own money for copies and mailings. They host evening meetings in their kitchens and living rooms after working their day jobs. Not only is it often thankless and exhausting, many people don't take their message seriously.

``We aren't saying to people this is going to be the end of the world as we know it,'' said Oakland 2001 coordinator Rosa Zubizarreta, who lives in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood. ``We are just encouraging people to share information and draw their own conclusions.''


The following is a list of community groups, committees and publications promoting Y2K preparedness:


-- Oakland 2001 -- Citywide Y2K network for community preparedness. (510) 595-5505 or visit (Web site in English and Spanish). oak2001

-- Oakland Prepared Neighbors -- Educates and organizes Oakland residents on individual and neighborhood Y2K preparedness. (510) 420- 5772 or visit


-- City of Oakland Resources Information Hotline -- (510) 238-4Y2K or visit Speaker's bureau provides city employee volunteer interpreters for Spanish, Vietnamese and Cantonese Y2K presentations. (510) 238-4487.

-- Citizens of Oakland Respond to Emergencies (CORE) -- Provides free classes on individual and neighborhood emergency planning. Deborah Reisman, Emergency Planning Coordinator, (510) 238-6351, or visit

-- San Pablo Avenue Golden Gate Improvement Association (SPAGGIA)-- Community group works with residents and businesses along San Pablo Avenue. Activities include boosting economic development and organizing for Y2K. Charles Porter, (510) 654-8763.

-- City of Albany's Earthquake Preparedness Program -- Offers occasional classes on earthquake, fire and Y2K preparedness. (510) 525-6987.

-- City of Richmond Office of Emergency Services -- Kathryn Aguirre, Emergency Services Coordinator, (510) 307-8075.

-- Richmond Neighborhoods Y2K Resource Network -- Works with Richmond city agencies and residents to prepare for Y2K disruptions. Pennie Opal Plant, (510) 233-2186, or e-mail mestizagal

-- City of El Cerrito Neighborhood Emergency Assistance Teams Program -- Pat Caftel, Program Coordinator, (510) 525-7268, or e-mail caftel

-- Berkeley Y2K Resiliency Network -- Helps Berkeley residents to prepare for Y2K and beyond. Also organizes forums on Y2K. Lois Jones, (510) 527-3452, or e-mail loisjones

-- Neighborhood Networks Group in Berkeley -- Group meets monthly to encourage cooperation among neighbors for long-range sustainability and Y2K preparation. Laurence Schechtman, (510) 527-6688.

-- City of Berkeley Office of Emergency Services -- Provides brochure on Y2K preparedness. (510) 644-8736.

-- City of Berkeley Y2K Resources -- Y2K coordinator Roger Miller, (510) 665-7535, or visit (Berkeley's Y2K Web page is scheduled to launch June 30).

-- Judith Welter in San Lorenzo -- (510) 352-0156.


-- Scrunchers Anonymous -- Bay Area on-line bulletin board posting Y2K preparedness tips. (510) 704-5566 or visit scrunchersanonymous.


-- The Co-Intelligence Institute -- A leading website on Y2K as an opportunity for individual, community and cultural transformation. Visit

-- Cassandra Project -- Any Y2K community group can register with the Cassandra Project so that people in their area can contact them. Site also contains Y2K networking and how-to information. Visit


-- President's Council on Y2K -- Visit

-- U.S. Senate Special Committee on Year 2000 -- Visit ~y2k.

-- Year 2000 Project Office, Montgomery MD -- One of the most organized and prepared counties in the nation for y2k. Visit Year2000/

-- California Department of Information Technology -- Visit


-- Utne Reader's Y2K Citizen's Action Guide -- A 120-page guide from Utne Reader provides tips for organizing yourself, family and neighborhood for Y2K and beyond. Available at local bookstores or

-- ``The Year 2000 Problem: An Opportunity to Build Community'' -- Study material for use by small, self-organized groups interested in learning about how to build sustainable communities. Contact Northern California Earth Institute, (415) 785-1056.

-- ``Y2K: What You Should Know'' -- American Red Cross disaster preparedness brochure. Available at the local Red Cross or Y2K.html


-- AM Radio 530 -- Will broadcast Y2K information 24 hours a day -- Laura Hamburg


Are you preparing for a possible millennial meltdown by growing a community garden, stacking generators in a condominium center basement, setting up a neighborhood watch group?

Or do you think all those activities are ridiculous?

The Friday section wants to know what -- if anything -- families and communities are doing to combat utilities and telecommunications failures that might occur on January 1, 2000 because of the Y2K computer bug.

Send your comments to San Francisco Chronicle, Friday Section Y2K, 483 Ninth St., Suite 100, Oakland, Calif. 4607. Phone: (800) 350-4840. Fax: (800) 340-5940. E-mail:

)1999 San Francisco Chronicle

-- Diane J. Squire (, June 05, 1999.

Whew! That's done.

Helium, the time may be close. Have several names, etc.--Rosa from the Oakland group could come down--maybe even Tom Atlee.

Hoping that the San Jose Mercury News will be publishing an article-- maybe tomorrow--or next week on a similar topic. (A reporter called me not long ago).


Also, funny thing, in the mail today was a "Hillside Evacuation & Survival Guide" from my CITY government (look West). Doesn't say Y2K, but the "timing" is interesting. Let's just say, they've never done this before!

Summer may get "interesting."

Got conversations?


-- Diane J. Squire (, June 05, 1999.

Thanks for the post, Diane. Keep up the good work. No such news further down the coast. Maybe it won't be long...

-- flora (***@__._), June 05, 1999.

Wow, Diane...

You never cease to amaze me with the persistence of your effort to get people Y2K aware. Congratulations on another comprehensive and well thought-out piece.


-- Sandmann (, June 06, 1999.


I E-mailed your thread to my local city officials, who just announced a Y2K preparedness plan. Maybe this will motivate them to take further steps faster. :o)


-- Sandmann (, June 06, 1999.

F.Y.I. ...

On the S.F. Gate web-site, home for the digital San Francisco... Chronicle, Examiner and Channel 4 KRON TV-NBC station, they have a Y2K Bulletin Board going...

Talking Y2K

Got a millennium opinion? Say it here. y2k/

-- Diane J. Squire (, June 06, 1999.


I didn't write these (I wish)...

Just talk to area reporter's sometimes and help them with local contacts and "e" them key Y2K info they might have missed. Hopefully it will do *some* good.

Highly recommend everyone "get to know" their local Y2K investigative reporters and their city managers, et. al.


*Create Community, Prepare To Share, Be Y2K Aware*

-- Diane J. Squire (, June 06, 1999.

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