D.C. tells congress its ready for Y2k

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D.C. tells Congress its ready for Y2K WASHINGTON, D.C., September 27  District officials assured Congress Friday that the city will meet its Y2K readiness goals and said the city will have adequate back up plans for any computer failures.

MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS also urged the public not to panic over doomsday predictions in the country, but to take reasonable precautions themselves to be ready. The District is behind in solving its Y2K problems, but so are many cities and counties. Friday on Capitol Hill, the mayor and other officials said its a race to the wire for the government to be ready, but they urged citizens to take a calm approach to Y2K concerns. They said consumers should be prepared in case there are temporary disruptions in utilities or other services just like during a hurricane or thunderstorm. The city is paying for a tabloid insert in District editions of Sundays Washington Post. It will give advice on how to prepare for all kinds of potential emergencies, not just Y2K. Incidentally, the Capitol Hill hearing produced a lot of fireworks and bickering, but it wasnt about Y2K. Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton normally gets along with Republican Tom Davis on city issues, but they were growling at each other Friday over budget politics. News4s Tom Sherwood explains in this repor


-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), September 27, 1999


Cash-strapped D.C. Races for Y2K Finish Line

September 27, 1999


[Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]

Despite a late start and some sloppy accounting, all of Washington D.C.'s critical computer systems will be Year 2000-compliant, but it will be a close call and will require more than a 50 percent increase in federal funding, city officials said on Friday.

Mayor Anthony Williams, testifying before the District of Columbia subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, said the district will go down to the wire for full compliance but will have all systems ready and contingency plans in place for Jan.1.

But district officials said they need additional federal funds to reach the finish line and recently filed a request for $68 million in additional funding with the Office of Management and Budget.

Officials from the General Accounting Office, however, took issue both with D.C.'s timeline for Year 2000 compliance and its inability to track the funds the district has received to date.

Although the district has made notable progress with Year 2000 fixes, it still is in danger of not meeting the deadline, according to GAO, and the district has not fully accounted for how it had spent the $120 million in funding it has received for Year 2000 fixes.

GAO had "received inconsistent and unreliable cost data from several District officials," said GAO official Gloria Jarmon. "The district cannot offer assurance that funds intended for Y2K efforts have been properly or effectively spent."

However, Williams and the other district officials acknowledged that they had encountered difficulty in tracking Year 2000 funds and said efforts were under way to accurately track the money. But they also noted that the district's Year 2000 readiness efforts contributed to the problem.

Given the emergency status of the remediation efforts, the district's top priority has been simply securing the funds, Williams said. "In my world, you have to distinguish between the top priorities that are blowing up, and just the top priorities," he said. "The city is going to be ready."

"They would have been pulling people off of Y2K to track funds," said the committee's ranking minority member Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), who also said she would "continue to do everything I can to protect those [federal Y2K] dollars for the district."

Suzanne Peck, Washington D.C.'s chief technology officer, reported that of the city's 223 mission-critical systems, 130 are Y2K ready and the remaining 93 are in different phases of remediation and testing. Those 93 systems will complete testing by the end of October and return to production in November, she said.

-- Dan Caterinicchia (danc@civic.com)

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), September 27, 1999.

Washington D.C. does have back-up plans...

[Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]

District Prepares for Y2K System Failures

By Eric Lipton

Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, June 28, 1999; Page A1

The District government, recognizing that its year 2000 repair program likely will not be completed on time, is planning a massive New Year's Eve mobilization of emergency personnel and other staff to ensure that critical city services are not interrupted if computer systems fail.

Police will be stationed at more than 120 locations across the city, working 12-hour shifts, to take walk-in requests for emergency services. Twenty-one "warming centers," each supplied with food, water and cots, will open. School crossing guards will be on call, ready to replace traffic lights at major intersections. And D.C. General Hospital will have extra staff members  as many as 175  on site.

These are just a few of the 88 contingency and emergency plans the District is feverishly working to put in place by the end of the year. Similar efforts are underway across the United States among governments and private companies, but in the District, officials have acknowledged the city is so far behind on its Y2K fix that it may have to rely on some of these "work-around" techniques.

"Because we began late, there may be things that suffer an interruption that we did not completely get to," said D.C. Chief Technology Officer Suzanne J. Peck. "Within our agencies ... in some function, a handful may fail temporarily."

Officials are confident that most of these plans  even those that will be put into effect regardless of any system failure  will not be needed, and that even in the District, Y2K will be one of the century's most hyped nonevents.

City officials want to convince the public that the new year will begin in the nation's capital without chaos no matter what happens with D.C. operations or outside services such as telephone, gas and electricity.

"Our intent is not to alarm people, but put people at ease that things are under control," Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said yesterday. "We are going to have this city work for people."

Added Cmdr. David B. McDonald, the supervisor of police Y2K planning: "We want to reassure the residents and visitors to the District that even if Armageddon comes, we will assist and protect the public."

The D.C. Council will be briefed on the public safety contingency plans at an oversight hearing this morning.

The District's own assessment of its progress in making year 2000 fixes demonstrates the need for such planning: With six months left in the year, only 41 percent of the District's 336 major computer systems have been fixed. The rest are scheduled to be repaired and tested by the end of October.

Of the city's 73 agencies, 19  including key departments such as Health, Housing and Community Development; Tax and Revenue; Child and Family Services; and Public Works  are not even halfway done with their year 2000 repairs and planning.

Williams said he is "not at all surprised" that so much work remains, given the city's late start on addressing the Y2K problem. But he added that he is reasonably comfortable with the status of the city's Y2K repair efforts and has the impression that the District is about even with other major cities, saying the city may be understating its "readiness."

Virginia and Maryland, by comparison, say their government systems are virtually Y2K-proof, and while they also have contingency plans, they are more confident that they won't have to use them.

The year 2000 computer glitch, popularly known as Y2K, stems from the use in many computer systems of two-digit date fields, leading many machines to interpret "00" as 1900, not 2000. This could cause systems to transmit bad data, malfunction or crash.

The District's late start is largely to blame for its lagging effort. While Maryland and Virginia began working on the problem several years ago, the District waited until last summer. Recognizing the danger of a catastrophic failure in the city, Congress gave the District $62 million in emergency funding this year to accelerate the work. But even with an army of more than 300 consultants at work  most under a $76 million contract with IBM Corp.  success is far from assured.

The struggle at D.C. General Hospital illustrates the challenge. D.C. General and its related health care divisions are about 48 percent "ready," according to ratings released Wednesday by the District's year 2000 program.

The hospital's mainframe computer system  which handles medical records, patient accounts, budgeting, laboratory data, patient registration and other hospital operations  will falter at year's end unless several million dollars in repairs are made.

The city is rushing to install a new computer system, but the first phase is not scheduled to be operating until mid-September. Officials are debating whether to repair the old computer in case the new one is not ready.

And that is only the beginning.

An estimated 80 percent of the 1,000 pagers assigned to staff at D.C. General and other divisions of the city's hospital and health care network are not Y2K compatible. At the start of June, the city had not issued a purchase order to buy replacements.

Each of the hospital's four ultrasound machines and 21 defibrillators  used to reestablish a regular heartbeat-is not Y2K compliant, although replacements are on order. And the critical-care monitoring system in the intensive-care unit also must be replaced.

"You can't have an emergency room without a defibrillator. You can't have an intensive-care unit without monitors," said William D. Wild, senior vice president for compliance at D.C. General.

Given all this uncertainty  and fewer than 190 days before the end of the year  D.C. General administrators and staff members are spending hundreds of hours preparing backup plans.

The 250-bed hospital, which served 51,237 in its emergency room last year and 80,000 in its hospital clinics, is arranging to have 50 temporary workers available to hand-process records and other tasks if computers fail. As many as 124 employees  including nurses, doctors and financial staff members  may be asked to stay overnight on New Year's Eve, Wild said.

An extra 30 to 60 days' worth of pharmaceuticals is being ordered, and up to 90 days' worth of other basic supplies  from bottled water to bandages  is being purchased. The cost to the city just for the contingency planning, excluding the basic Y2K repairs, is about $4 million.

Even at agencies where year 2000 repairs are farther along, extensive contingency planning is underway. The broadest effort involves emergency services, where the plans are largely directed at anticipating failure of outside utilities such as electricity and telephone  all extremely unlikely.

"The phone company says they are 98 percent certain it won't go down. The power companies say they are 99 percent certain everything will work," McDonald said. "But if that 2 percent and 1 percent cross, we need to be prepared."

Every officer in the city's 3,600-person police force will work 12- hour shifts during the New Year's weekend. Starting about 10:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve, the police department will deploy two-person teams to 120 locations across the District, including fire stations, convenience stores and fast-food restaurants.

Each officer will have a radio, and each of the 10 antenna sites for the radio system will have a backup generator. The city's 150 school crossing guards will learn how to handle traffic if lights go out. Staff is prepared to process crime reports and bookings by hand.

"We can't say, 'Sorry, Mr. Burglar, we can't book you today. Why don't you come back tomorrow?' " McDonald said.

At the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, leave time is being restricted for the 1,763-member staff between Dec. 15 and Jan. 15. Crews on the 16 ladder trucks are being given the tools and training to perform elevator rescues, supplementing the city's three regular rescue squads.

Backup to the city's computer-aided dispatch system is ready: thousands of 3-by-5 cards detailing which trucks to send depending on the address of a call. Fire trucks and ambulances already have been checked.

The city's Emergency Operations Center will be in gear before New Year's Eve, staffed by the public-safety-related agencies, including the Red Cross and the National Guard. All 21 warming centers, most at city schools, will be open New Year's Eve.

"If need be, people who go to these centers will be warm. They will have somewhere to sleep and something to eat," Emergency Management Program Officer Barbara Childs said.

The contingency planning extends far beyond the central emergency agencies.

The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, for example, will spend more than $1 million to rent several locomotive-size generators to ensure that water will flow if the electricity goes out.

The Public Works Department will ensure that the city has 87,000 gallons of vehicle fuel available, double the normal supply. Extra truck parts, backup generators and other supplies also are on order. Plans have even been made for trash collection crews (they would work day and night), tree maintenance (complaints would be taken at the Reeves Municipal Center on 14th Street NW) and rat patrol (private exterminators would be used).

Officials are urging residents to prepare for the new year as well, stocking up on food, fuel, bottled water and other supplies as they would for a winter storm.

Jack L. Brock Jr., a U.S. General Accounting Office computer expert who described the city's Y2K outlook in February as "bleak," said last week that while he is reassured the city is making contingency plans, it must be able to implement them.

"They can't just be paper plans," said Brock, whose office is about to start another review of the District's Y2K status for Congress. "They have to do enough testing and validation to be confident that they will work."

Interim City Administrator Norman Dong said Williams is committed to ensuring that the plans work. To date, 38 of the 88 contingency plans are in draft or final form. From July until September, 23 mission- critical city agencies will hold mock drills.

"Our hope and expectation is that it will be business as usual," Dong said. "But we are taking nothing for granted. We want to make sure we are covered, that no matter what happens, we are prepared."

) 1999 The Washington Post Company


-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), September 27, 1999.

The Warming Centers are compliant.

-- TrustHim (ItComes@Soon.now), September 27, 1999.

Was not Tony Williams just selected to head up the committee on addressing the loss of all that internet sales tax?? (yes)

(this guys has asperations folks)

After Seeing the 60 minutes piece on D.C. and the post article. I guess they think everyone will buy this?

More reason to prepare in my opinion, Lies,Lies all Lies. Damn--- does anyone tell the truth these days???

-- David Butts (dciinc@aol.com), September 27, 1999.

(1) I am very glad to be a LONG way from there!

(2) If the city that is the seat of our government cannot get prepared, who can we expect to be in good condition?

(3) On the other hand, since they can't account for the money anyway, does it really matter if their accounting system in non-compliant?

(4) They seriously need to work on accountability (fiscal and otherwise). But that is in short supply in the USA recently.

-- Mad Monk (madmonk@hawaiian.net), September 27, 1999.

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