Emergency office awaits Y2K

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From Boulder News dated Aug 30 <:)=

GOLDEN  Beyond the locked door, down the steep passage of blue carpeted stairs is a relatively quiet cellar.

A giant screen at the front of the central room shows weather radar from the Internet. Two large televisions on either side carry other televised or computer information. Desks with computers surround the conference table in the middle of the room. In the back of the room, four televisions are tuned to network channels.

It's a tranquil day at the Colorado Office of Emergency Management.

On New Year's Eve, though, this cellar in Golden will be hopping with activity.

It won't be a party. Instead, the room will be filled with state, federal and local officials monitoring the arrival of the year 2000 and any computer disruptions that might come with it.

Some computers or computer programs may fail come 2000 because they were designed to recognize only the last two digits of the year.

If disaster occurs, this will be where federal, state and local officials intersect for information.

"That day, Dec. 31, our plan right now is to move into what we refer to as a partial activation," said Sue Clark, operations manager for the office.

At 6 p.m., the center will move to full activation, with Department of Corrections, Public Service Co. of Colorado and a range of other representatives there.

Originally built as a fallout shelter in the 1960s, the center is topped by four feet of concrete, two more feet of sand and more concrete. A "Faraday" cage in the basement offers a super-safe  but small  shelter with lots of electronic equipment. Amateur radio operators and dispatchers can communicate with the outside world from the little cell. Workers could even take over the radio airwaves to broadcast emergency information.

Outside the cage, in an array of communications equipment, there are direct lines to the Federal Emergency Management Administration and to a dispatch station for the Colorado Highway Patrol.

The state agency also has eight silver boxes around the state with communications equipment that can be used in case of emergencies. The last time one of the boxes was used was during Pope John Paul II's visit to Denver in 1993, when power went out temporarily at Cherry Creek High School.

In another room sits a huge, 125-kilowatt generator. It's geared up for a couple of hours each Friday, just to make sure everything is working.

Typically, the underground center is staffed only by a couple dozen regular workers, from a public information specialist to a mapping division. Most of the time, the office offers services to local governments in the state, such as mapping, education and planning. The center typically helps in any disaster drills a county plans and coordinates when FEMA assistance is needed after emergencies.

After the Black Tiger forest fire on Sugarloaf Mountain 10 years ago, the state office helped Boulder County residents apply for federal assistance, said Lt. Larry Stern, the city and county emergency coordinator.

"We work real close with those folks," Stern said. "We've got a real good relationship with them."

It takes an emergency  a flood, an unexpected snowstorm, a fire  for the center to transform into action.

"It's always set up, it's not always running," said Clark. "We bring people in as events grow and we need additional agencies and people."

Emergency drills are another occasion for activating the center.

"Our biggest exercise every year is usually the coordinated exercise with Rocky Flats," which brings in 45 to 50 people, Clark said.

Then there are special events, such as the pope's visit or the 1997 Summit of the Eight in Denver. The center monitors such events and is prepared to act in an emergency.

"It would speed up the response if anything were to happen," Clark said. "It's always when you least expect it when emergencies do happen."

When they do, representatives of various state agencies man their appointed desks around the emergency operations room. Typically, the state patrol and state Department of Transportation are first on the scene. They're often joined by federal highway officials, the Red Cross, FEMA representatives and others.

On New Year's Eve, even representatives from the governor's office will be in the basement.

Scott Logan, director of preparedness training and exercises for FEMA's regional office in Denver, said the state office is ready for Y2K. "I think they're doing what they should do," he said. "The state has their system in place."

But most reaction will have to come from a local level if power goes out and people react with lawlessness.

"If it occurs, it's going to be such a wide area, they're not going to be able to help us," Lt. Stern said. "Boulder County and the city are way ahead of most places in the state. We realize we're going to be on our own."

And with everyone all geared up, most officials aren't expecting an emergency to happen.

"I think the people who are going to be down here are going to be dead bored," Clark said.

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), September 02, 1999


Sorry, forgot the link: Emergency office awaits Y2K

Tick... Tock... <:00=

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), September 02, 1999.

Sysman...where to start? ;-) They will be here:

Originally built as a fallout shelter in the 1960s, the center is topped by four feet of concrete, two more feet of sand and more concrete.

Glad we built 'em a nice one. Too bad they didn't leave us a little more of our own money, so we could build ourselves one. Of course there would be the permits...variances to ordinances...(rant off)

"It's always when you least expect it when emergencies do happen." //////(snip) most officials aren't expecting an emergency to happen.

(does anyone else catch the silliness here, or is it just me?)

Well, I'm glad the DGI's have a shelter, now they can be 'dead board' instead of just dead. :-)

-- Deborah (infowars@yahoo.com), September 02, 1999.

Help me out here, please...

"...most officials aren't expecting an emergency to happen".

Seems like an awful waste of resources, manpower, and real estate for a non-event to me. Colorado's tax dollars at work.

Also, why is Uncle Sam telling me to prepare as I would for any storm, with 2-3 days worth of provisions? Yet our local hospital, and those around the US, are told to prepare for a month?

Just curious...

-- Uncle Bob (UNCLB0B@Y2KOK.ORG), September 02, 1999.

Behind a locked door, underground, with 4 ft of concrete. This is the place they needed to be to ring in the new year? Now why would that be? Any room for me? Yeah, I didn't think so. Looks like it's gonna be preps and a prayer for us...

-- Gia (laureltree7@hotmail.com), September 03, 1999.

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