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Y2K adivce -- store water in soda bottles

May 12, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. - Now that everyone has been told what Y2K is, the focus Wednesday night turned to preparing for it.

Y2K experts and several agencies, including the Red Cross and Jefferson County Office of Emergency Services, came together at Jefferson High School to explain how local residents can cope with power outages and other service disruptions that could be caused by Y2K. About 75 people attended.

Y2K is a potential flaw in the timing functions in computers. Many computers only recognize the last two digits of a date, meaning Jan. 1, 2000, may be interpreted as 1900.

The fear is that computer systems may shut down, interrupting electric service, water utilities, financial systems and other operations.

As far as human survival, water takes priority over food, said Jeff Wroten, who has experience helping communities survive natural disasters. After three days without food, body functions start to shut down, he said.

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The good part is, most people will be able to store as much water as they want, Wroten said.

The best container in which to store water is a 2-liter plastic soft drink container, Wroten said. Plastic in milk jugs is not as heavy, and the taste of the water can be affected over time by outside elements.

If the water supply runs out, water from rivers, streams and ponds can be purified by adding 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water.

The water should then stand for 30 minutes. If it doesn't have a slight bleach odor, another 16 drops of bleach should be added and the water should stand 15 minutes more.

Mail-order catalogs and magazines are offering to sell a year's supply of food with some packages costing up to $1,500, said Wroten, who is director of the Eastern Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Martinsburg.

But if that's too hard on the wallet, Wroten suggested people begin buying bulk canned food from discount outlets.

Food should be stored in a cool, dry place to protect its quality, and consumers should check expiration dates on the food and rotate it if necessary, he said.

"We don't want to see you panic, but we do want to see you informed," said Katherine Dunbar, executive director of the American Red Cross.

The county is in the process of determining how many emergency shelters and power generators it may need in the event of electric disruption, said Curt Bury, a Y2K planning consultant who has worked with the group, Y2K Shepherdstown.

If homeowners do not have sufficient heating system in the event of a power outage, they may need to stay in a large shelter, possibly the high school, Bury said.

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