U officials prepare for New Year’s surprises

by Liz Bogut

Instead of celebrating New Year’s Eve with friends and family this year, dozens of University staff members will be sitting at work, waiting for something to go wrong.
Keeping tabs on University computers, telecommunications and power supplies will be part of a Department of Emergency Management plan to handle some of the more unfortunate fireworks that might take place on the holiday.
University Police, News Services, Facilities Management and Institute of Technology staff are among those scheduled to work Dec. 31.
“The plan is a supplement to the existing emergency plan on campus,” said Judson Freed, assistant director of the Department of Emergency Management. “We felt it helped us to be prepared for the worst possible case on New Year’s Eve.”
For problems that come up later in January, such as personal-computer failures, a Y2K telephone-information line will be available to the on-campus community.
As of September, the University has completed 98 percent of its Y2K preparation, according to a report at the Board of Regents Audit Committee meeting.
Regent Maureen Reed said that from a management standpoint, Y2K should be a routine function.
“Most of the work is really done. I hope we sleepwalk through Jan. 1 — everything should be on autopilot,” Reed said.
Although the University has completed all of its vital Y2K preparations, minor complications are bound to arise.
“We are going to find out that we missed some things despite all of the time and money that has been spent on this project,” Freed said.
Freed said the information line was created to help people deal with these problems after they return to work.
According to an executive summary of University Operations Planning, the biggest problem is the possibility that citywide utilities might be interrupted.
“The greatest risk is the potential of utility disruption. Other than that, we are in a very, very safe mode right now,” said Steve Cawley, interim associate vice president of the Office of Information Technology.
The executive summary also stated that public paranoia and possible overreaction might flood the University’s help line, slowing its ability to effectively respond to Y2K problems.
Freed equated the chance of Y2K complications to the possibility of a winter storm.
“The chances of power failure on Jan. 1 are no greater than on any other Minnesota winter day,” Freed said.

Liz Bogut welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3225.