Front Line Report: Emergency Planning In Our County : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

A raft of officials, including FEMA, SEMA (NY State version), NYSEG, County people and others shared the inside dope on the readiness and contingency planning for our rural county (dairy, widely dispersed, about 45,000 people). They were surprisingly candid, especially in private.

In public, people learned that the County effort has been led by a guy who has spent five years painstakingly ensuring that all County systems are Y2K compliant, including both physical and software (the local electric coop had put me onto him separately when I was writing my bi-weekly Y2K column for the county newspaper, so I already knew this. He is awesome).

The local state college is prepared to shelter up to 3,000 people for a significant period of time, if need be (with 2,500 or so townies, that's a good start). They expect outlying folk (like us) to refuse shelter and accept this. I had already reported that the village has had all gensets upgraded and a tanker has been ordered. Police and firemen have been encouraged to make their families secure so they feel comfortable coming to work (whether they have done so remains to be seen).

The NYSEG rep stated publicly that the state is prepared to island itself and is also discussing broader islanding with Quebec and surrounding states. Interesting. He also said NY State can produce more power than is needed for the state (may check with Rick Cowles on this, news to me). They are developing satellite links and other radio contacts in case the phones go down (more on that later). They have already developed contingency plans for manual restart and control of power (how feasible, I do not know, just reporting). I had spoken to this rep six months ago (he heads their Y2K tech effort) and he was quite frank at that time about Y2K perils: I consider him honest.

A local farmer GI, who is tenacious, challenged the panel about martial law implications and broader "doomer" issues. What was most fascinating is that they did not deny the possibilities or challenge him. One panelist said, "the truth is, we don't know how bad it will be." Gee, maybe being rural means folks are more open. The SEMA panelists said, "we are a home rule state and will not accept the Federal Government telling us we must implement martial law." Bold words, but interesting that they were said at all. Especially in New York. Maybe there is hope we will avoid "Hillary" after all.

Offline, a county official commented to my wife that he believes Bell Atlantic is not telling the truth and that "long distance is going down." I cannot verify his source of data, but he was matter-of-fact about it. The county is considering going off 911 in November, so they can develop alternate systems for emergencies before rollover. They also expect electric to go down for some period of time (maybe just a day, maybe significantly longer) and power shifting (different towns get power serially) has been brainstormed.

OTOH, they all spouted the "prepare for three or four days line", not because they are predicting that level of problem (when pressed for duration, they again said, "they don't know"), but because it takes that long to get emergency services established. Yeah, I know. Try doing that with everyone else simultaneously.

My wife felt that the two significant dimensions were their united refusal to diss or dismiss the GI concerns of the farmer (lots of sidelong glances and silence, until the comment mentioned about "not knowing") and the gravity with which they admitted they do not know how extensive the impact will prove to be.

Net net, all planning is good news, locally, nationally, globally. The bad news? As always, few attendees and the normal spin-induced apathy runs through this county (though we hope the higher percentage of GIs among village and county officials is reflected quietly throughout this self-reliant farm population). The wide-area big-city (pop. 15,000) daily paper did cover it, so we'll see what is said tomorrow. Normally, the paper ignores all potential Y2K impacts and makes fun of those who prepare.

-- BigDog (, June 17, 1999


Thanks Big Dog,

That is actually an encouraging report, in my eyes. At least they are taking this very seriously and doing a lot of behind the scenes preparing. Wish this sort of planning and public discussion was going on everywhere. We would all feel a lot better if we believed we had even a moderate handle on the most likely problems.

-- Gordon (, June 17, 1999.

Gordon -- Agree completely. Alarming in some respects, but hey, that's real life with this crisis. Sincere, intense contingency planning is/must be the name of the game for the rest of the year. It IS good news for our county.

-- BigDog (, June 17, 1999.

BigDog, your neck of the woods is light years ahead of the pack.

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (, June 17, 1999.

In 1975, a 765KV line went in from Masena to Oriskany, ostensibly to be able to power NYC. This power came from QUEBEC HYDRO!! I know about it because my wife did a lot of the payroll and ofice work for the company that built the towers. You might want to ask what, in the last 20+ years has changed interms of locally generated power, and local needs, since I'm SURE the NEEDS have increased a LOT.


-- Chuck, a night driver (, June 17, 1999.

And, BigDog, even if Y2K turns out to be that fabled bump in the road, your local officials will be well equipped to handle just about any kind of emergency--an ice storm, blizzard or other natural or man-made diasaster. I wish our city officials were only a fraction as pragmatic and forthcoming.

-- Old Git (, June 17, 1999.

BD-I'm envious. I wish my local officials were even half so forthcoming. Lidna

-- newbiebutnodummy (, June 17, 1999.

Linda, would you please e-mail me via Critt at "Critt Jarvis"


-- Old Git (, June 17, 1999.

Sorry, forgot about the arrowhead thingies: that's "Critt Jarvis"

-- Old Git (, June 17, 1999.

BD: "The local state college is prepared to shelter up to 3,000 people for a significant period of time, if need be..."

Am I to assume 'shelter' includes food, water, heat? Incredible! My gut tells me this amount of planning is not being repeated in many counties around this great land of ours.

Great news BD. Thanks for sharing.

Best Wishes,

-- Bingo1 (, June 17, 1999.

Bingo --- Good question and I may have made it sound a little better than it might be. They could handle the energy needs for a while (two weeks? longer?). Other stuff left implicit, but no, there are no special food stocks on hand at this point that I know of. If it really goes south, these shelters are only a temporary expedient, IMO.

-- BigDog (, June 17, 1999.

Water is not a problem, except with respect to terrorism. Our county supplies > 80% of water that NYC receives. May be a problem for NYC, tho ......

-- BigDog (, June 17, 1999.

Thanks for this post, BigDog. Last night I attended our local monthly meeting of a citizen's Y2K group. They meet monthly as a public, open meeting, and smaller "action" groups meet also on a monthly basis. Been doing this since March of last year.

Last night the topic was a panel discussion, with a representative from the local county sheriff's department, a FEMA rep, and the local emergency op rep.

Each were open and answered the best they could. I say, best they could, because I "perceive" some (as on this forum, were certain "hats" and see no further then the hat they wear.

The sheriff rep was most disappointing of the three. Spoke of the radio system they have, and how they will be receiving a new, Y2K compliant system in November (fully tested when it arrives, he says!). If this doesn't "work" they plan to fall back to an earlier system (he didn't care to elaborate). He also relayed that his deapartment has advised their personnel to use the Red Cross standard for home preparations, and to prepare for minimum of one week of self- sufficiency.

The FEMA guy was most evident in giving the "party line." Example: FEMA will NOT come in unless the local government requests their assistance. We are a resilent country and we WILL handle any disaster that arises. NO, their will be no martial law. He knows of no such operation or plan in the works. The military is NOT preparing to come to your local community to restore order. Etc.

The local EMOP guy was most vocal, even humorous at times. His message: We are advising citizens through every public means possible to take ownership for preparing for self-sufficiency. Attain you level of comfort as to long you should prepare for, whether it be 3 days, or three weeks. Our agency will be there to assist when or if a disaster developes. We are advising citizens to have a batery operated emergency radio in the event that local radio and TV stations cannot get the message across to citizens. There are plans for emergency shelters, water and food distribution.

When pressed by questions from the floor, the emergency op rep could not give assurances that their plans could cover the vast population of the greater Tucson area.

I came away feeling the wheels are indeed turning, but that 600,000 plus folks in our area are in a very deep gray area regards the planning of our local government.

-- Joseph (, June 17, 1999.

BD- Can receive- but not send e- mail today??!! Will see you folks tonight. Thanks.

-- Steve Felling (, June 17, 1999.

BD thanks for the example of what should be happening all across the country. (last year). Still praying for the masses!

-- Will continue (, June 17, 1999.

Big Dog When was the meeting was it recently?

-- Ruth the Moab (, June 17, 1999.

my wife works at local bank'knows just about 1/2 the town'local emergency director'y2k-leader'said'martial-law on back-burner'but will be reality if things get out of control'said we,llhave water[rationed] sewage'but elec. a big guess'making plans to go door to door'so many elderly-here.said to make sure got plenty food stored.he also said lot,s of volunteers signed-up to assist where purchased 3 new big generators'sure glad not in big city,

-- al-d. (, June 17, 1999.

Joseph - Five months (and counting) before the emergency radio system arrives. Cool! Reminds me of one of my basic concerns about the companies and agencies that have announced when they WILL be ready. How many of those predictions are based on soft delivery dates of software and hardware that won't come true?

-- Brooks (, June 17, 1999.

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