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50 % prepare for Y2K disaster

Ottawa residents use lessons learned from '98 ice storm as Jan. 1 nears

Colin Grey - The Ottawa Citizen

Ottawa residents are putting the lessons they learned from last year's ice storm to good use in hunkering down for a possible Y2K disaster, according to a poll commissioned by the Citizen.

A large majority of residents discount the possibility of a catastrophe. Nevertheless, exactly half of local residents say they plan to -- if they have not already -- stockpile food and spare generators, or make other preparations by the time their digital clocks flash 12:00 on New Year's, the poll shows.

"I would expect that the sort of things that people are doing are quite influenced by the ice storm," said Stephen Kiar, senior partner at Compas, which conducted the poll. "It's like the ice storm was kind of a dry run."

As the day of reckoning approaches for the most-hyped event of the year, most residents seem to believe the assurances of governments and major corporations that they have made adequate preparations for the Y2K computer bug. Despite a flare-up of fears regarding millennial cults and terrorist attacks on New Year Eve, Ottawa residents appear to think such major problems won't take place here.

"They're certainly not panicked, and most aren't expecting anything to happen, but they're hedging their bets," Mr. Kiar said.

Despite the fact 79 per cent of residents think major disruptions in Ottawa are not very likely or not likely at all, according to the poll, 50 per cent have made or are planning special preparations for Jan. 1. The remaining 50 per cent said they have no plans.

Only five per cent of residents think problems are very likely, and 15 per cent said they are moderately likely. One per cent said they did not know.

Most preparations taken by people include setting aside supplies of necessities. Of those who have taken action, 67 per cent have stashed extra food, 51 per cent have stored reserves of water, 23 per cent have stockpiled batteries and flashlights and 17 per cent have stockpiled candles.

Those planning to take action have similar priorities. Fifty-six per cent plan to stockpile food, 44 per cent water, 11 per cent batteries or flashlights and 22 per cent have stored candles.

The major difference between the two categories is that more residents plan to set aside cash reserves (24 per cent) than have already done so (12 per cent). Older residents, university-educated residents and women are more likely to have taken steps to prepare, the poll shows.

Where women are more likely to stockpile food or take domestic preparations, men are more likely to focus on firewood, improvements to computers or fuelling their cars, the poll shows. For instance, 13 per cent of men who have taken action have upgraded their computers to be Y2K compatible, compared to five per cent of women.

"They're not thinking that anything is likely to happen, but they're being prudent and taking action anyway," Mr. Kiar said. "There's been so much hype about Y2K and people are working on solutions."

The poll of 300 Ottawa-area residents was conducted Dec. 17 and 18. It is accurate to within 5.8 percentage points, 19 out of 20 times.


-- snooze button (, December 28, 1999

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