Emergency centers will be open in all 50 states for Y2k (...one of the largest crises mobilizations in peacetime history.)

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By THOMAS HARGROVE Scripps Howard News Service December 20, 1999

- Public concern over the millennium computer bug has prompted all 50 U.S. governors to activate their emergency operations centers on New Year's Eve in one of the largest crisis preparedness mobilizations in peacetime history.

Thousands of state employees will crowd into communications centers, National Guard armories and local courthouses throughout the United States. Tens of thousands of others _ especially technicians with computer skills _ have been ordered not to take extended vacations during the holidays so that they are available if problems occur.

Emergency management officials in many states report that the mobilization will be the largest in their history. Several said not even the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, when scattered civil defense workers were put on alert for fear of nuclear war, prompted as large a mobilization as is scheduled for New Year's Eve.

The nervousness stems from the possibility of problems developing in some computers and embedded circuits that read only the last two digits of a date. They may mistake 2000 for 1900 and could malfunction.

"The dilemma for us has been how to be prepared without creating alarm," said Ronn Padgett, executive director of Kentucky's Disaster and Emergency Services. "It's rare that we know the date and time of a potential emergency. So Y2K has certainly been a new experience for us."

Kentucky will call up 400 National Guard troops to observation posts in all 120 counties and within the state's 47 armories. Padgett said several hundred civilians also will be asked to work Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 to monitor communications and utilities operations, answer telephone calls from the news media and fretful citizens, and to prepare immediate field reports for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

"Really, there was ample reason for all of the states to decide to open their EOCs," he said.

A survey of emergency management or Y2K preparedness officials in all 50 states by Scripps Howard News Service found that every central state crisis center will be opened by at least 5 p.m. on Dec. 31. Several states plan to mobilize their top emergency staffs two or three days in advance and will keep their crisis centers operating well into the new year.

A similar survey conducted in June found that only 26 states were committed to full mobilization of their emergency staffs.

"This is proof of a collective common sense among the states," said Nula Forde, spokeswoman for the Connecticut Department of Information Technology.

Connecticut officials have ordered at least 300 government workers to be at their monitoring posts on New Year's Eve, although only a third will be stationed in the Emergency Operations Center in Hartford. Most will be stationed in smaller centers in each of the state's 16 major agencies, including at least 70 at the state's Department of Information Technology.

California officials will activate all three regional emergency centers and have constructed two special Y2K monitoring centers at a former automobile maintenance warehouse owned by the California Highway Patrol.

"We realize that it is important to show the public that we are monitoring, that we are prepared," said Eric Lamoureux, spokesman for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

The state is putting the finishing touches on a Joint Information Center to monitor events inside California, as well as a Follow-the-Sun Command Center that will observe the severity of Y2K-related problems in the 19 time zones east of California. Both centers _ which are being carpeted, given drop-down ceilings, and equipped with computers and telecommunication gear _ will be disassembled after New Year's Day.

"It is unique in that we know that something is coming so far in advance. And we know there will be a need to let the public know what is or, hopefully, what is not happening." Lamoureux said.

The extensive mobilization comes even though state authorities overwhelmingly believe their own computer systems will suffer few, if any, breakdowns. Forty-nine of the 50 state spokesmen answered "no" when asked, "Are there any specific computer systems in your state that you are worried will not operate after Dec. 31?"

"Any program could fail," said Scott Elliott, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Governor's Office of Administration. Even though he was the lone voice of gloom, he noted that Pennsylvania technology officials have labored for three years to fix the Y2K glitch and he could not identify a specific critical system expected to fail.

Most states are reporting a very high level of confidence, often citing a readiness rate in which 98 percent or more of all so-called "mission critical" computer systems are already prepared and tested.

"We've spent perhaps a million hours of labor fixing our systems," said Mike Benzen, chief information officer for Missouri. "We feel confident we're ready."

One of the important duties emergency managers will face on New Year's Eve will be to send regular status reports to FEMA in Washington, which has created a special system to receive updates on any failures in power, water or telecommunications systems anywhere in the nation.

But many of the state managers said their biggest priority in committing to such a large mobilization is public relations.

"It's important to demonstrate to the public that we don't expect any problems, but that we are prepared to deal with anything," said Lamoureux.

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), December 20, 1999


Top the top of new answers. Thanks, Homer.

-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), December 20, 1999.

Yessirree, a storm to remember. FWIW we are glad this mobilization is occurring! Always good to practice, prepare, plan and drill for emergencies.

We think they will be very busy, but hope we're wrong.

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), December 20, 1999.

This is a significant article.

-- to the top (top@top.top), December 20, 1999.

Homer: You find great stuff. It must take you all day. So I guess you're otherwise unemployed......... We thank you.

-- Forrest Covington (theforrest@mindspring.com), December 20, 1999.

Yes, we'll be open & staffed. We knew about thsi 6 months ago, so it was no secret, the things we *don't know* concern:

-how LONG we will be open, &

-what the heck will go on.

-- RJ (LtPita@aol.com), December 20, 1999.

The article begins,

Public concern over the millennium computer bug has prompted all 50 U.S. governors to activate their emergency operations centers on New Year's Eve in one of the largest crisis preparedness mobilizations in peacetime history.

Boloney. The public has been conned into bliss. It's the private fact-accessed gubmint that is prompting the bunkers.

-- that is (me@there.not), December 21, 1999.

I had occassion to call my local OES person yesterday. The county recently designated shelter locations in several communities in case of problems due to Y2K. We had never even had shelters designated before. I called to check on final plans because I work with disabled adults. While we are getting them ready to "shelter in place", we wanted to know what backup plans are available if TSHTF. I asked the OES person if the shelters are supplied with food, water, cots, blankets etc. He was incredulous at my question... "Oh no, no,...we don't have room to store that stuff. If there is any problem we just call the Red Cross same as we've always done." There is no Red Cross locally... he means calling the regional representative... out of area.

Clueless. OES.


-- Linda (lwmb@psln.com), December 21, 1999.

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