Y2K: The sky isn’t falling

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 4, 1999

Y2K. The mere mention of the term strikes fear into the heart of techies everywhere. From stocking up on food, to paying megabucks to ensure computers will boot-up on Jan. 1, the Y2K phenomenon seems to be picking up steam as the new millenium nears.

I remember first hearing the term Y2K about three years ago in a bank board meeting. At first, I have to admit, I thought Y2K was some weird banking term. But as the presentation went on, I became more and more intrigued with the phenomenon. Turns out, of course, that Y2K &uot;bug&uot; as it is now called is associated with how early computers deal with dates that were originally input in two-digit date fields. The result, as most folks know by now, is when the year &uot;rolls over&uot; to 2000, non-compliant computers will read the date &uot;00&uot; as 1900, thus creating a big ol’ computer mess that has the potential to spill over into folks’ everyday lives.

The good news, it appears, is that government, public utilities and banks such as the one I mentioned above were working on the problem way back in 1996 and before and it looks like we’ll avoid the Y2K stalemate some predicted. Instead, we can focus on ringing in the new millenium with family and friends and enjoy an event only a few generations will ever have the opportunity to experience.

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I’m convinced the sky is not falling. But, for those who aren’t convinced, in the coming weeks The Democrat will publish a special section that will address how Y2K issues have been dealt with in the Miss-Lou area. From all accounts, we appear to be in pretty good shape.

For those who still feel the need to prepare for the worst, I discovered the following tips for Y2K readiness:

n Read Y2K notices provided by local government officials, banks, power and telephone companies, health care organizations and other important service providers.

n Check with manufacturers to see if the electronic equipment you use around your home is Y2K compliant, especially personal computers, monitored security systems or programmable thermostats. Most consumer electronic products like television sets, refrigerators, coffee makers and microwave ovens do not use a date calculation for their operations.

n Keep a copy of your records in the weeks leading up to and following the date change, particularly bank balances, financial statements, medical records and prescription drug information.

n Have enough cash for a normal holiday weekend. Withdrawing large amounts of cash is unnecessary and may invite theft. Remember that financial institutions appear to be well prepared for the date change.

n Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food and water (one gallon per-person, per-day).

n Make a personal assessment of those items that are critical to your family.

n Develop a list of emergency phone numbers for hospitals, police and fire departments and neighbors.

n Ensure that you have adequate clothing, tools and supplies, flashlights, batteries, a battery powered radio and a first aid kit, as recommended by FEMA and the American Red Cross. For further information on their recommendations you can visit their web sites at www.fema.gov/y2k or www.redcross.org/disaster/safety/emerprep.html, or call FEMA at 1-800-480-2520.

n Refill prescription medications when you have a five to seven day supply remaining.

n Keep your car’s gas tank at least half-fullas you would, for instance, to prepare for the onset of bad winter weather.

Did I say the sky wasn’t falling? Think I’ll go buy a can of Vienna sausages and a jug of water just in case.

Todd Carpenter is publisher of The Democrat. You can reach him by calling 446-5172, ext. 218 or via email at todd.carpenter@natchezdemocrat.com.