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Franklin Co. to staff emergency office for Y2K

December 13, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - They won't be popping champagne corks New Year's Eve at the Franklin County Courthouse, but those assigned to man the Emergency Operations Center that night don't expect to be blowing gaskets over Y2K problems, either.

"We're going to have the EOC open, as we would with any disaster," said Franklin County Emergency Management Coordinator Denny Monn. "It's going to be staffed with a skeleton crew, about half a dozen people."

The center will be open from 10 p.m. to noon on New Year's Day, Monn said.

Other county offices will have personnel come in after midnight to check on their computer systems.

The so-called Y2K or "millennium" bug is a potential malfunction of computers in which they may read the year 2000 as 1900. That's because many older systems were programmed to recognize only the last two digits of a year.

Monn said county employees coming in that night will have to make do with shrimp and cold cut platters, instead of bubbly and "Auld Lang Syne."

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With 19 days left to the new year, Monn said the county is ready, as are the major utilities people rely on every day. "Allegheny Power says they're OK. Columbia Gas says they're OK," according to Monn.

As for municipal water and sewer systems, Monn is also confident, since most rely more on gravity than pumping stations to operate. "I don't think Y2K is going to affect gravity," he said.

"They've been working on this a long time. A lot of money has been spent," Monn said about government and corporate Y2K preparedness. "I don't really expect any major problems," he said.

In October county officials said more than $1 million, 2,500 hours of staff time and two years were spent getting the county Y2K compliant.

That included checking and replacing hardware, operating and application software systems and products with date-sensitive computer chips.

"Look at this as any other disaster, be prepared for it," Monn said. That means having plans and supplies in place for a blizzard, hurricane, flood, or other emergency.

Those facing life-threatening emergencies on New Year's Eve can call 911, but Monn said non-emergency calls can be made to the EOC at 1-717-267-2801.

A disaster supply kit should include clothing and bedding, non-perishable food, water, tools and first aid supplies, according to information the county has distributed to employees and residents.

The supplies should be kept in a plastic storage container, with a smaller version for the family car.

Food and water should be replaced every six months to ensure freshness, according to the information. Supplies should be adequate for three days for every member of the family. In the case of water, that's one gallon for drinking, cooking and sanitation per person, per day.

Flashlights, radios and fresh batteries are also useful in any emergency, along with special needs, such as hearing aid batteries and medications.

As for all those who purchased emergency generators in anticipation of Y2K, Monn said, "I expect to get a used one at a good price next year."

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