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Teleconference to focus on Y2K issues

June 29, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania residents concerned about Y2K disruptions will have a chance tonight to join in a statewide forum that will offer advice on coping with possible problems.

Lt. Gov. Mark Schweiker and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency will host the "Pa2K Electronic Town Hall Meeting" teleconference at sites across the state at 7:30 p.m. Franklin County residents can participate at the Penn State Cooperative Extension Office at 191 Franklin Farm Lane.

"Here's some good preparedness tips," said PEMA Press Secretary Marko Bourne. "They could take the word 'Y2K' out and it would still be good advice."

"This is no different than what we recommend for any disaster," Franklin County Emergency Management Coordinator Dennis Monn said Monday. "The program is geared toward the general public and local officials. We want to let people know what has been done with some major businesses" and government agencies to address the Y2K problem.

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In short, the computer systems that people depend on to deliver power, telephone service and other utilities may fail when the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31. Computers not programmed to recognize the difference between 2000 and 1900 could shut down.

Bourne said representatives from major utilities, communications and banking companies will be on hand for the teleconference to detail what steps have been taken to avoid Y2K disruptions.

State and local government officials will also participate in the teleconference, telling what they have done to prevent millennium shutdowns.

Franklin County Extension Agent Robert Kessler said local governments and businesses have been invited to attend the teleconference, which will be carried live by the Pennsylvania Cable Network. A number of Public Broadcasting stations are taping it to air at later dates.

"We expect minor disruptions at worst," Bourne said about Y2K. He said the publicity, however, has been "a good advertising tool" to get people thinking about emergency planning.

"Most communities have plans in place for New Year's Eve in general," including more police, fire and ambulance coverage, Bourne said.

Monn said that includes Franklin County, where the Emergency Operations Center will be activated Dec. 31 to handle any problems that crop up from computer glitches.

The Penn State Cooperative Extension Service has published a pamphlet, "Consumers and the Year 2000," with tips about how to deal with the turn of the century.

The Franklin County Emergency Management Agency also has a seven-page booklet of preparedness tips available to the public.

That advice includes keeping a store of canned and dried foods that don't require refrigeration. First aid kits, flashlights, battery powered radios and cellular phones should also be kept on hand.

A supply of water for drinking, washing and flushing toilets is also recommended.

Pennsylvanians are also advised to save printed copies of bank statements, mortgage payments and other financial transactions in case computers crash Jan. 1.

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