Night of living the Y2k dread : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread,1282,32695,00.html


Night of Living the Y2K Dread by Lindsey Arent

3:00 a.m. 24.Nov.1999 PST When the Gregorian odometer finally flips to zeros in California, if all goes well, state officials will have already endured the dawn of Y2K enough times to be prepared for anything.

State emergency officials have developed a 'Follow the Sun' program designed to keep tabs on any disastrous effects as Y2K as it crosses from east to west across the globe.

Read ongoing Y2K coverage More Infostructure in Wired News

"It's sort of an early warning system for California so we can understand what's going on in other parts of the world and if that will have an impact in the state," said state emergency services spokesman Eric Lamoureux.

Members of the state's Governor's Office of Emergency Services and the Department of Information Technology developed the strategy as a way to track any technology problems that might occur across the globe and assess the likelihood of similar problems occurring in California.

Selected staff in nine state foreign trade offices under the Department of Trade and Commerce, also including Taipei, Mexico City, London, Johannesburg, Jerusalem, and South Korea, will be on the lookout to track any disruptive events as they happen.

"We're looking for telecommunications interruptions-- anything that interrupts the stream of commerce," said California Trade and Commerce Agency spokesman, Mike Marando.

Why all the fuss? California has a US$1.1 trillion economy, the eighth largest in the world -- twenty percent of which is dependent on foreign trade, investments, and exports, Marando said. "That s why were taking a global approach to this."

Technology leaders Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Hitachi -- members of the California Year 2000 Business Council  along with many other companies with a stake in the stability of California's technology infrastructure -- have donated staff and office space around the globe to serve as information hubs during the state's Y2K watch.

The alliance of so many diverse companies and public agencies is a rare first that perhaps only an event like Y2K could bring on, said Oscar Gonzales, spokesman for the governor's Y2K project.

"This program is unprecedented, because typically, these companies are competitors," he said. "Traditionally, the state of California has neglected to capitalize on the wisdom of the technology sector."

While there's good reason to keep a watch on how Y2K effects California's commerce, the technology employed in the "Follow the Sun" program is decidedly low tech. Staffers around the world will use "conventional methods" to report on the effects of Y2K, such as by tuning in to local radio, television, and just plain looking out the window, Marando said.

Foreign trade offices will communicate with the California headquarters via email, telephone, or, in the event of telecommunications problems, through satellite phones.

The program will spring into action when the first reports of Y2K come in from Auckland, New Zealand, at midnight on 31 December -- 20 hours before California's own New Year's celebration.

As the New Year begins its journey across the planet's many time zones, staffers at a state operations center in California will be receiving and analyzing reports from across the world to see how they could apply to their state.

"We'll try to understand the severity of the incident. If its a telecommunications problem, we'll try to understand what the system is for that particular city, and see if there is any similarity to California," said Lamoureux. "If there is, we'll try to notify the agencies that have jurisdiction over it and try to determine a contingency plan."

Take, for example, a mass power failure in New Delhi, Lamoureux said. "It may not have an impact in California because their system is different than ours, but we will try to understand that system so we can then decide what we need to do to prepare ourselves."

While Lamoureux said he doesn't expect Y2K to result in any severe problems for the state, he acknowledged that it's far better to be safe than sorry.

"This is so incredibly unique because you have a situation that you can prepare for, but we dont know what the magnitude is," he said. "If nothing else, it will give people an opportunity to learn about how to prepare for things of this nature."

-- Homer Beanfang (, November 24, 1999

Moderation questions? read the FAQ