report on county Y2K meeting : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I did get to ask a number of questions at the local county Y2K 3conversation.2 It was actually quite interesting. The local fire chief in whose station it was held was most down to earth. Said the station would be a shelter if needed but 3I9m not storing any supplies for you. You should prepare for yourself!2 Of course, those who came were not the ones needing to hear that message. There were 23 in attendance, the biggest turnout they have had at any of these meetings around Wisconsin, including two others further away in this county. Perhaps my articles in local area paper have had some small effect. The Red Cross and Salvation Army talked about how many years they have been dealing with disasters and how they can handle anything. They expect the 17 hrs. of lead time they have (watching what happens in other countries) will give them plenty of time to outfit whatever shelters are needed for 3 days. Area nursing homes are taking Y2K very seriously, and seem to have excellent contingency plans, except for the fact that they have no idea it could be more than a few day situation. The local fire and police stations will be manned around the clock, so if you have an emergency but no phone, someone can drive there to ask for help. And the small towns in the area have generators for water/sewer systems if needed, that will work at about 75% of usual capacity. Again, for how long is a question. All these local representatives, working guys who did not dress up for the meeting, seemed very dedicated and frank. The suit-and-tie representatives from the state gas and electric companies and the guy from the state of Wisconsin were another story. This was their 54th presentation. They had a well-practiced routine they were performing, and were pretty slick. Though both the electric and state reps lost their cool demeanor when I brought up some points they were not expecting. They were not able to 3wrap it up2 in the reassuring way they have apparently been able to at other meetings. When I began to bring in facts from the Senate Report, nobody on the large panel seemed to have even heard of it. The county moderator said 3You have done your homework.2 I included some info. on 3wild cards2 such as the possibility of terrorist acts on Jan. 1st. Afterward, the moderator told me 3I couldn9t mention that kind of stuff,2 expressing her appreciation that I had brought up the points I did. And she was glad to take the photocopied info. I was offering. A couple of residents asked what they should do about their particular heating situation, etc. and when the panel had no advice, I gave them just the advice they needed. Afterwards, the Red Cross spokesman asked me to send him my Y2K Preparation Notes. Following is a follow-up piece I wrote for the area newspaper. ********************************************************************** In last week9s Sounder (Oct. 14th) the editor reported on the county Y2K meeting held on the 11th. I also attended this meeting, and find Gary9s reporting very accurate. With so much at stake, however, it is good to have investigation as well as just hearing the messages being delivered to us by the representatives of various companies and agencies. I offer here some information gathered through my own investigation and research. At the county meeting the chief of the fire station where the meeting was held reported that his fire trucks are Y2K compliant. I asked whether they had actually been tested, or if he was going on the assurances of the manufacturer. The latter was the case. The fire chief was aware that, when actually tested, many such supposedly compliant items have turned out not to be, (even in cases of supposedly identical items), but has an older non-computerized truck he can use of one of the more modern ones does fail. Well and good for the fire station, but not for the numerous other entities who have used the same kind of 3testing2 and do not have an 3old reliable2 backup. The representative from WI Electric was shocked to hear that the final report of the U.S. Senate Committee on Y2K states that local and regional power outages are to be expected, and that Senator Bennett, the head of the Committee, recently placed the likelihood of nation-wide grid failure at 10%. But Senator Bennett and the Committee know a lot that people working more locally do not. They know that many electric companies, faced with the task of testing thousands of items for compliance, decided to do their testing the same way the fire chief did - by calling the manufacturer of the item. If the voice on the other end of the phone line said 3Sure, that9ll work in 20002 the item was checked off as tested. All these items will be tested, of course. On Jan. 1, 2000! The U.S. Senate report reminds us more than once that the data being reported to them and to the public are mostly self-reported, and that this is like letting students grade their own papers. Who is going to give themselves a failing grade? For example, the Department of Defense was not once but twice caught lying in their reporting of progress made. Now that they are forced by the Committee to be honest, DoD admits they will be far from compliant by Jan. 1, 2000. You can read this and other information all of us should know in the Senate9s report, the most complete and most informed report available on the Y2K situation here in the U.S.A. When I mentioned the report at the county meeting, not one person on the panel had read it. In fact, they seemed unaware of its existence. Yet some of these people have spoken at over 50 meetings, and will speak at countless more, assuring local citizens that there is nothing to be concerned about. Another point made in the Senate report is that outside testing of remediations is crucial for a successful project. When asked at the country meeting if WI Gas remediations have had outside testing, the company representative said 3I don9t know.2 If I were representing to the public a service of utmost importance to their well being next January, that is something I would want to know. I offered photocopied highlights of the Senate report to everyone present at the meeting . From the country representative leading the meeting on down to various local speakers, people on the panel were eager to have this information. The representatives from the state and the utilities companies were not interested, I noted. My husband9s comment on this was that those parties were not interested in having more information, just in giving out their own information. It was certainly my impression that the local speakers (fire chiefs, RL water/sewer...) were quite candid. I did not have the same impression regarding the state level speakers. I will admit that I had prior information regarding electric company statements that would make it difficult for any electric company spokesman to convince me he was telling the whole truth and nothing but. As revealed in the minutes of the Aug. 21, 1998 meeting of NERC (North American Electric Reliability Council), a task force was put to work to develop a standard statement for the industry to give customers to assure us that the lights will be kept on. Following the minutes of this and subsequent meetings, it is clear that this message was crafted before some entities in the industry had even started on their Y2K projects, and was intended to be delivered regardless of the actual prognosis. In other words, the reassuring statements that come with your electric bill just don9t mean anything at all. I am not alone in taking such statements with a grain of salt. The U.S.Senate report is quite suspicious of the apparently 3over-optimistic2 statements being made by the electric utilities industry The Senate report does not include any information about the preparedness of the State of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin is one of just two states (Oklahoma is the other.) who have refused to release information to a national state tracking group. At the county meeting, the WI state spokesman reported that the state has had the problem well in hand since 1995 and everything is just fine. This is in complete disparity with a statement by Tommy Thompson just last spring, when he said that we9d be lucky to finish even half of the state9s mission-critical systems in time, adding 3I am fearful. Very fearful.2 Information technology projects of this magnitude simply do not go from that state to 3no worries at all, folks2 in half a year. Has a miracle occurred? According to the state spokesman, one was never needed. It is this kind of 3spin2 that makes it difficult to get accurate information, to know what spokespersons to trust, and hence to make informed decisions about how one should prepare. Our national government and most of our state governments have chosen to strongly downplay the dangers of Y2K due to fear of public panic. Let me put that another way. Your elected officials have decided that you cannot handle the whole truth, and are choosing which information and how much of it, you may have. Senator Bennett said last spring that he and John Koskinen (head of The President9s Commission on Y2K) were meeting weekly and 3agonizing2 over how much to tell the public. It is very interesting that President Clinton hired a lawyer to head his Y2K Commission. Koskinen9s messages to the American public about Y2K are delivered in fluent Clintonese. On Oct. 13th, as part of further hearings on Y2K, The Senate Committee heard a statement from the London-based International Y2K Coordination Center, which has produced risk profiles for 140 countries. Their assessment of our situation: 3 The U.S. is at risk from a sudden shift in belief. Current public consensus appears to be guarded optimism. The administration's Y2K Czar [John Koskinen] has put forth an optimistic message. We view the Czar9s optimistic message as potentially reckless. At best an overly optimistic message would lead to disregard of Y2K by organizations at risk. At worst it may cause the administration to lose credibility in the face of a minor crisis. A loss of credibility would mean an inability to reduce fear and uncertainty should a large crisis emerge. The U.K. [United Kingdom: England] is doing an excellent job of communicating caution and expressing real concern about the issues at hand. The message has been bolstered by an extensive media campaign, which has heightened awareness without raising undue alarm. The United States should consider a similar strategy, involving a national campaign designed not to fan the flames of fear, but rather to make people aware of the issues at hand.2 Translation: You should stop spinning and be honest with the public. We did this, and the people haven9t panicked. If you don9t, organizations [and people!] at risk will fail to prepare. And if there is a big crisis, government will have lost all credibility and panic will truly get unmanageable. The Senate Committee has been measurably more forthright than Mr. Koskinen. I hope I have stimulated your interest in their report. See my lettter in the Oct. 6th Sounder for how to obtain it. One thing from the report that all rural Wisconsin residents should be aware of is that 3resources most often are first applied where the greatest concentration of people is located. Thus some farmers are preparing for possible disruptions that may last a little longer than a few days. 3 In other words, power will be restored first to cities, last to rural areas, and you9d be wise to be prepared to be without electricity for 3a little longer than a few days.2 How long is that? Republican Representative George Grindley who heads his state9s Y2K team and also has worked closely with Koskinen says that while the 3spin2 to the public is that 3 days is enough to be prepared for, 3 weeks is what the states have been told to be prepared for. Obviously, nobody knows exactly what will happen, but this is certainly food for thought. Senator Bennett says 3If you are going to stockpile anything, stockpile information.2 Do you and your family have enough information on which to base your preparedness decisions? If you have been waiting for someone to just tell you what to do, you have wasted a lot of valuable time already. It9d be a great investment in your future to do your own research here, and make your own informed decisions. - Real soon! Shivani Arjuna

-- Shivani Arjuna (, October 20, 1999


Whoa. That's real hard to read. It was all in neat paragraphs when I sent it. Why did it come out all in a chunk?

-- Shivani Arjuna (, October 20, 1999.


It may have been hard to read, but it was worth reading. Great job! Your community is fortunate to have you there asking the hard questions.

-- Sally Strackbein (, October 20, 1999.


You need to put a blank line between paras when posting here. In other words, hit enter twice at the end of each pagagraph. <:)=

-- Sysman (, October 20, 1999.

Great work. Very intersting. Should be helpful to your community, too.

-- Mara (, October 20, 1999.

Lucky you that your county is holding official meetings. The only meetings we've had in our county are the ones I've given at my church, a local convenience store, the Lions and Rotary Clubs.

-- Kurt Ayau (, October 20, 1999.

My church, a mainstream Protestant denomination, has not, to my knowledge, said one word about Y2K, not one word. Pitiful.

-- Ohio Bob (, October 20, 1999.

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