Officials deem city, U ready for Y2K

Amber Foley

The year 2000 might bring problems for some, but University and Minneapolis officials say they have solved all major Y2K problems.
But just in case, University policy-makers and rapid-response teams will be on hand, said Judson Freed, assistant director of the University’s emergency-management department.
“The University is really in pretty good shape,” Freed said. “The University has been working on Y2K problems for not months, but years.”
The Y2K problem originated when 1950s programmers began a practice of representing years with two digits instead of four to save computer memory. But in 16 days, when computers encounter the year ’00,’ they might fail.
Freed said the University initially identified 400 key systems that needed to be fixed; all but two have been repaired so far.
“We’re assuming that this is a non-event, but we’re staffing for the worst-case scenario just because it’s the safest thing to do,” Freed said.
All University policy-making officials are required to be on campus for New Year’s Eve and will be in contact with the state until they know the University is safe.
Rapid-response groups will also be on hand to deal with any emergency situations, Freed said.
Because many people might try to call friends and family on New Year’s Eve, Freed said telephone problems might arise.
“We’re expecting everyone to pick up their phones and call at 12,” he said.
This might delay dial tones, but Freed said waiting for 10 to 20 seconds will solve the problem.
The University isn’t expecting a problem with its campus phone system. But in case of an emergency, students will be able to go to five sites where they can call for help. Students staying on campus over break will be informed of those sites at a later date, Freed said.
Minneapolis officials have also said they are confident about being prepared for Y2K.
Paul Willig, the city’s year 2000 program director, said Minneapolis launched its Y2K plan in April 1998.
“We’ve checked out all of the city’s systems, and we believe that the city is in good shape,” Willig said.
The 911 system has been fixed and tested, and the city has rented three water generators in case of emergency.
But only half of the city’s traffic lights are Y2K compliant.
City officials also don’t expect problems, but all regular and reserve police officers will be on duty, Willig said.
“We will have better police coverage on New Year’s Eve than any other night this year,” he said.
Officers will be based at fire stations, which will serve as emergency centers if necessary.
City officials urge citizens to have a preparedness kit, similar to what they might need for a winter storm or tornado, Willig said.
Like Freed, he also urged people to only use their phones on New Year’s Eve in an emergency.
The state has also worked to ease the minds of its citizens.
Gov. Jesse Ventura created a special committee last April to oversee statewide readiness efforts and develop a public-relations campaign to increase awareness.
The committee urges citizens to educate themselves, identify potential problems, take precautions and be aware of the potential for fraud.
Amber Foley covers science and technology and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3213.