Friday, July 2, 1999
Y2K group recruits help from selectmen
Selectmen heard a short but informative presentation on June 22 about how a group of residents has been laying the groundwork to prepare the town for any disruptions caused by the calendar changing to the year 2000. The "Y2K Community Group" is an informal association whose mission is to help the town get ready for and comfortably survive a community emergency. They asked the selectmen to prepare for the new year as if for a dangerous storm and to enter into an ongoing conversation with townspeople regarding their plans and status of their preparations.
Overall, the group has been treating preparation for the Y2K problem as a way to build community, said member Paul Hackbarth. "We plan to help organize neighborhoods so that neighbors get to know each other and commit to share resources with each other," stated a handout circulated by Hackbarth. The group intends to hold neighborhood parties to identify "storm houses" which will have power and supplies, and to conduct an audit of who has useful skills and equipment and who might have special needs. "It's not clear that our system will cover everybody," admitted member Jon Saphier, and that is where the selectmen come in.
The Y2K group, which has held two open community meetings on this topic, listed questions for the town leadership to consider. Is the town planning to offer extra Y2K services (such as emergency shelter or check cashing) or supplies (such as food, water, fuel, medicine)? If telephone service is disrupted, how will townspeople contact fire, police, ambulance, doctors, hospitals, etc.? Does the town have a plan to check in on the sick, elderly and other vulnerable people? Does the town have an emergency coordinator who will manage communication with utilities during outages, disseminate updated information to the town, coordinate neighboring towns, and distribute an informational flyer before the new year explaining how to access emergency town services?
Selectman Doug Stevenson said, "It is important to establish a few areas in which the town should be active and which do not overlap the work of the group." Stevenson suggested those areas to be public services, communication, temporary shelter and dealing with people who may be at risk (sick, elderly, etc.). Selectman Michael Fitzgerald commented that the first step for the town is to make sure the department of public works, fire department and police department are prepared to function and provide emergency services.
The group also suggested that the town install a backup electrical generator at the school so that it can serve as an emergency shelter and so that it will not have to be closed during electrical outages. The town might also consider providing people with current updates on the status of services via coded signals from the fire alarm siren.
How big a bug?
When Fitzgerald asked if the committee had any idea how big this problem might be, Saphier suggested that the town be prepared for a disruption lasting from three days to two weeks. This is just an educated guess, admitted Saphier. Even the United States Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem does not know, and Saphier quoted from a letter from this federal group: "The committee is among the most broad-based, best-informed bodies in existence, yet it cannot predict what will occur on January 1, 2000. The data simply does not exist."
The Y2K group plans further communications with the town to advise how townspeople can prepare individually for the next millennium.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito