Iowa: State fears people problems, not Y2K glitches : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


Emergency planners say activities likely to cause problems

Posted December 5, 1999 By Rod Boshart Gazette Des Moines bureau

DES MOINES -- State officials hope the arrival of the new millennium turns out to be the biggest non-event they have ever prepared for on such a grandiose, painstaking and unprecedented scale.

However, if there are problems associated with Jan. 1, 2000, emergency planners say they most likely will be caused by humans rather than malfunctioning computers unable to decipher the new two-digit "00" date as the turn of a new century.

"I suspect that most of the problems we will have will be the result of people and not Y2K glitches," said State Fire Marshal Roy Marshall.

Marshall's 30-member staff will be on ready status for up to one week after the new year arrives to respond to any potential Y2K emergencies.

If there are any catastrophic events, Marshall said, they more likely will be isolated problems resulting from someone improperly storing or handling gasoline or propane cylinders, or from firing up an auxiliary generator in a tightly enclosed area without proper outside ventilation.

While much of the focus over months of preparation has been on testing and retesting computer systems, emergency planners say the real Y2K bugs may be triggered by people.

Those problems might include overloading the telephone system to check for dial tones or to make calls, hoarding money or other items that create artificial shortages, terrorist activities, mischievous hackers trying to simulate a Y2K problem or the usual array of New Year's Eve revelers who get too carried away with partying like it's 1999.

"We pray for the best and plan for the worst," said David Miller of the state Emergency Management Division.

The division will be the lead coordinating agency at the emergency command center in the Iowa National Guard's Starck Armory near Johnston north of Des Moines.

Emergency officials are urging Iowans to prepare like they would for a major winter storm that potentially could cause temporary inconveniences.

If there are problems, he said, they likely will not be widespread and will be short-lived.

"We feel we're in a pretty good position to handle whatever happens the first of the year," Miller said.

Col. Robert King of the Iowa National Guard said the 9,500-member air and ground network will be available to respond to emergencies if need be.

He said the upside of Y2K planning has been a major upgrading of computer systems and preparedness efforts that will benefit the state long after Jan. 1 has come and gone.

"We're approaching this like a winter storm with a known date," King said. "We just don't know how big or widespread it will be."

The Iowa State Patrol will be out in full force for the Y2K weekend with an extra 80 to 90 troopers to complement the three regular shifts of officers normally on duty.

"I can't predict what people are going to do or what will happen, but I can tell you we'll be prepared in the event that something does happen," said Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Dave Garrison. "If there are extra or additional problems that arise, we have the resources to meet those demands."

On the subject of resources, Paul Carlson of the state Department of Management said about $22 million has gone into assuring that state government's mainframe computers, hardware and software and equipment with embedded computer chips are prepared to make the jump into a new millennium.

Richard Varn, head of the state's technology department, said state government has been a leader in Y2K compliance.

He said that prior significant dates this year, like the arrival of the 2000 fiscal year on July 1 and the 9-9-99 occurrence on Sept. 9 proved to be "yawners" for feared computer glitches and problems.

What adds to the Jan. 1 preparedness is the fact that Iowa officials will be able to watch how other nations and states are impacted or not affected as the new year slowly spins its way around the globe from a starting point some 18 hours away.

Since the new year dawns on a Saturday, Varn said, the real test for state government's computer systems likely will come on the following Monday when the full work force is back on the job and the load goes up.

Each agency has contingencies, such as blank welfare check warrants, in the event there is a major Y2K event, he said.

-- y2k dave (, December 07, 1999


This is a very old. We've heard this crap many times before. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz......

-- Larry (, December 07, 1999.

Yea, those Iowans are known to be a fisty crowd.

-- goldbug (, December 07, 1999.

Seems like I see this exact same article here everyday, except the name of the state, or town or mayor or firechief changes.

-- Hokie (, December 07, 1999.

There may be some truth to this article. Computers won't be a problem because computers DON'T:

1. Care if the power is on or off.

2. Care if there is food to buy and eat

3. Care if there is affordable gasoline to buy

4. Care if the paychecks/welfare checks are on time and correct

5. Care if the toilet won't flush and water to drink

6. Care if they spew out bad data or even work at all

Computers won't be a problem Jan 1. They either will work or they won't. People on the other hand........

-- Bill (, December 07, 1999.

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