Forget the party: Y2k will keep many people at work... : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Forget the party: Y2K concerns will keep many people at work New Year's Eve when they might otherwise be singing 'Auld Lang Syne'

By Pam Slater Bee Staff Writer (Published Oct. 4, 1999)

Last New Year's Eve, Holly Delaney celebrated with friends at Lake Tahoe.

They enjoyed a gourmet dinner and just before midnight, they turned on the television to watch the ball drop in New York's Times Square.

"Then we went outside and yelled," she said.

Delaney's plans for this New Year's are quite different: There will be no mountain cabin, no fancy meal and, if all goes well, no yelling.

As director of Mercy Healthcare's Y2K project, Delaney will be among thousands of people throughout the Sacramento region sacrificing the traditional rites of ringing in the new year. Instead, they will be at work during the wanning hours of 1999 and well into the first day of 2000 -- and much longer, if things don't go well.

Glued to computers worldwide, employees and their bosses will be waiting and watching to see whether there will indeed be a Y2K crisis at the stroke of midnight.

The widely discussed Y2K problem involves computers that recognize only the last two digits of a year and could read the digits "00" as 1900 rather than 2000. In some cases, that confusion could cause computers to malfunction.

Companies have spent months and years retooling systems to avoid any Y2K "bugs." But nearly every major company in town -- from hospitals to banks to computer manufacturers to governmental agencies -- has plans to beef up staffing on New Year's Eve. Just in case.

And that means people working when most, historically, have not.

"Y2K certainly is creating a different picture for us this year," said Marijo Rogers, spokeswoman for Hewlett-Packard Co. in Roseville. "We are increasing our (New Year's) staffing to meet Y2K needs."

Staffing will be boosted company-wide, particularly in its call centers, where employees will be on hand to assist customers with possible Y2K computer problems.

The number of people working at Regional Transit also will be increased.

"We are definitely going to have additional employees working that evening. Our information systems folks will be working around the clock for the first several days leading up to New Year's Eve and afterward," said Mike Wiley, an RT spokesman who will be one of those on the Y2K shift.

The same is true for PG&E.

"We will be staffing every emergency center in the company, and we will have all of our critical operating facilities staffed. And many of them aren't normally staffed because they are operated through automation," said Lyman Shaffer, PG&E's manager of corporate security.

"We will have more people down here than we normally would," said Gary Brooks, vice president of information systems for Rancho Cordova-based Vision Service Plan. "But we have no reason for concern at all. We are just being prudent at this point to make sure we aren't turning our back on anything."

Hundreds of Sacramento city and county workers will be working out of a joint command center set up at La Sierra Community Center in Carmichael.

"We're not going to be sipping bubbly on that night. We have been planning this for the past nine months," said Liz Brenner, a city spokeswoman.

"It is going to be a personal inconvenience for some people," she said. "But also we all recognize that it is a once-in-a-lifetime situation."

For those who have pulled what will be an all-nighter on one of the most important evenings in 100 years, take heart: There's nothing to be done about it -- except perhaps earn holiday pay and, in some cases, overtime.

"Can someone require you to work? You betcha," says Sheila Lamb Carroll, a Sacramento employment attorney.

"For a legitimate business purpose, an employer can ask you to work a schedule that usually is not yours and, in fact, one that is not even convenient for you. That's pretty well-established," Carroll said.

That's disappointing news for some workers who envisioned themselves on a millennium cruise or at the Barbra Streisand concert in Las Vegas.

Many employers have canceled all New Year's vacation requests, some as early as mid-December.

"Our technology committee recommended that we have a vacation freeze, which was an unusual thing for us to do," said Becky Regan, human resources director for River City Bank.

"But we felt it was necessary just because we can't anticipate what customer reaction might be at that time of the year."

Nor will members of Raley's information services department be out on the town.

But most employees have known for months that they would be ushering in the new millennium at work.

"I expected it," said Ron Saufferer, operations process coordinator at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. "Everybody pretty much is taking it in stride. Over here, being in the operations center, we're used to working emergency situations. We're used to working around the clock."

It's the same for Gene Moore, maintenance services manager for the city's Public Works Department.

"It's part of my job," he said. "Most people in government service, they realize that it is part of their responsibility to make sure that we are prepared."

Some are even looking forward to it.

"Particularly for the people who will be staffing the command centers, they have been living and breathing Y2K for some time now. It is the culmination of a big project that certainly a lot of people have dedicated a lot of time to," said Jason Hillery, spokesman for Pacific Bell.

"A lot of people have a vested interest," he said, "in seeing it through."

Plus, this is a time when employees can excel, Carroll said.

"I think it really makes you look like a team player. It really is a time to shine although it probably is a hard time for someone with a family. But it is an opportunity to say you really care about the future of the company," she said.

The good news is that many companies are catering dinners or having food and nonalcoholic beverages on hand. Some are inviting employees' families to join them in the festivities.

And just what do companies expect when the clock strikes 12 on New Year's Eve?

Most report that they believe it will be business as usual.

"I'm hoping it is going to be more anti-climactic than anything," said Mike Reinking, site manager for Intel Corp. in Folsom. "It is kind of like the final exam. We have been preparing for it, testing for it, but the final exam comes on the 31st. We'll see."

At Mercy Healthcare Sacramento, when the issue first came up, administrators were very concerned, said Y2K project director Delaney.

"A year ago, we weren't sure how bad it was going to be. Everyone was a little scared. But we have been able to do testing ... (and) we feel competent that we can handle the major issues. We're prepared, and we do have contingency plans," she said.

Similar testing has been done at Comcast Cable.

"We have been testing our systems for months now, and the tests have all been very good. We have zillions of contingency plans. I'm pretty confident that things will go well," said general manager Ruth Blank.

-- Homer Beanfang (, October 04, 1999


This is totally ludicrous. What are these people supposed to do in the middle of the night if their computers go down? Do they really think they can fix things overnight? They should be home with their families.

-- cody (, October 04, 1999.

I will certainly be at home with MY family (many miles outside the Twin Cities), no matter how much of a bonus there is for manning the phone lines. Protecting my kids, or helping someone I do not know a thousand miles away get a new motherboard for his computer (not that that will probably solve the problem of his computer being down or spitting out impossible results...).

-- MinnesotaSmith (, October 04, 1999.

Here's another one, this time from the Calgary Sun with a cute comment by the EMS spokesman that "they'll be done in an hour or two."

(for educational purposes only)

"Monday, October 4, 1999


By IAN WILSON, CALGARY SUN The symptoms of those stricken by the Y2K bug will be easy to spot this New Year's Eve -- good hand-eye co-ordination, clear speech and logical thought patterns.

While billions of people around the world are partying like it's 1999 for the last time, millions more will be missing out on some of the world's biggest celebrations because they have to work.

Which means no bubbly for those burning the midnight oil.

"It'll be work, work, work for us," said Emergency Medical Services spokesman Doug Odney.

"New Year's Eve is normally busy for us and we anticipate it'll be even busier this year based on the millennium celebrations."

Eight additional paramedic units will welcome the year 2000, on top of the 27 units normally working.

As well, management and support staff -- who normally have the holiday off -- will be manning the Emergency Operations Centre and stations across the city.

All of them will be expected to stay sober on the job during the Jan. 1, 2000 rollover.

"We are fairly confident we will go through that transition with very little disruption," said Odney.

"We'll have to wait at least one or two hours to make sure everything's OK before we can wind down and partake in the celebrations."

They won't be the only ones sober, however, as others are singing Auld Lang Syne.

Canadian Forces troops on eight-hour standby to deal with potential Y2K trouble aren't allowed to drink either.

The military will have at least 1,500 military command and control staff on duty Dec. 31 keeping an eye out for Y2K problems.

As well, the 230 Calgary firefighters on duty will have a dry New Year's Eve.

"This is nothing new to us," said Lieut. John Conley, adding staff will be paid double time for working the statutory holiday.

"We go 24 hours. It doesn't matter if it's Christmas or New Year's, our trucks will roll no matter what."

The fire department is not increasing the number of firefighters who will work during the Y2K rollover, but between five and 10 management staff will be working as a precautionary measure.

Contingency plans at TransAlta, on the other hand, will see their workforce reach 500 for the holiday. The staffing level on a normal day is around 100 people.

"It's just an extra precaution," said Y2K project leader Gary Steeves, adding he's confident Albertans will have electricity Jan. 1.

The extra staff are being called in just in case any sites which are usually run by remote need to be operated manually.

Mounties won't be cracking open any champagne bottles during the rollover either, but they did get some good news last week.

RCMP officers were originally restricted from taking leave between Dec. 27 and March 15, 2000.

Progress on Y2K preparedness has allowed the Mounties to reduce that timeframe and they must now be available for duty between Dec. 29 and Jan. 14, 2000."

My question: how do you call the fire dept. if the phones don't work?

-- Rachel Gibson (, October 04, 1999.

"HEY!! HELP!!! FIRE!! HEY!! FIRE!!! FIRE!!!" (then get a blanket. why? din't ya know? fire dept's Y2K contingency plans call for smoke singals)

-- jeremiah (, October 04, 1999.

I know for a fact that all the white UN bus drivers and black helicopter pilots have to work too. Gotta get all those hundreds of Y2k death camps filled up by the end of the weekend.

-- . (.@...), October 04, 1999.

A major class distinction: Those who will work New Year's Eve...and those who will not work.

-- Mad Monk (, October 05, 1999.

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