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Pa. workers will get taste of the Millennium Bug

July 30, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - For half a day in September, Franklin County offices will revert to an earlier, less complicated time when pens, pencils and paper were the predominant tools in the workplace.

"I pray it's not on a Wednesday or a Thursday," said County Controller Carol Fix Diller. Those are the days her office does payroll and vouchers.

Unfortunately for her, the county's Y2K drill will fall on Wednesday, Sept. 22. From noon to 4 p.m., county offices will be expected to operate as if every computer had fallen victim to the Millennium Bug. On Tuesday, the Board of County Commissioners set that date for its Y2K preparedness test and all departments are expected to develop and implement their contingency plans for a massive computer shutdown.

The contingency plans will include department heads identifying their most critical functions and how they will be carried out for a period of two to five days if there is a major computer crash when the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, according to County administrative Assistant Brian Kelly.

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Department heads will also have to identify how they will recover once computers go back online and list the supplies and materials needed to get through a computer crisis.

"We've gone under the assumption that we will have electrical supplies and communications," Kelly told the commissioners on Tuesday. For the courthouse and administrative annex in Chambersburg, power should not be a problem because the borough has its own capacity to generate electricity. Chambersburg has declared itself Y2K ready.

County Management Information Systems Manager Robert Mahoney said the county 911 center and prison have backup power systems in the event of a power shutdown. He said arrangements are being made to supply the Falling Spring Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and other county facilities with backup generators if a major power grid fails.

Mahoney said he is scheduling meetings or independent verification with the county's major software vendors to be sure they are Y2K compliant. At this point, however, most of the county computers are not.

He said the county is preparing to receive bids for software "patches" on about 300 computers that use Windows 95 or Windows 3.1 operating systems. Five older computers will have to be replaced and about 20 more need other adjustments before they are ready for 2000.

That's nearly all of the county's 380 computers.

One other complication heading into 2000 has to do with the day of the week. Jan. 1 is a Saturday when most county offices are closed.

"It could be a disaster on our part if we all waited until Monday morning to see if everything works," Court Administrator William Shaeffer said Tuesday.

Instead of New Year's Eve parties, a few county employees will usher in the next century at the courthouse, according to Chief Clerk John Hart. County officials, however, were confident that most systems will continue to operate normally.

"We're not thinking the Chicken Little scenario," Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said.

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