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County services ready for Y2K

"Island residents can likely rest easy while welcoming the coming millennium, thanks to a well-prepared staff of Island County emergency crews. During both New Year’s Eve on Friday and New Year’s Day on Saturday, Island County communities should expect to see much of the same holiday preparedness from emergency and police personnel as in previous years -- with additional arrangements for possible Y2K problems. Fire District 3 reports it is more than ready for the millennium.“Y2K is just another day for us,” Fire Chief Don Smith said Wednesday. “Everyone on staff will be anticipating the evening. We must be prepared every day.”The district has checked its computers, fueled its fire engines, and is ready for whatever may happen anywhere on South Whidbey. District personnel will even check crucial systems after the millennium date rollover to look for undetected problems that may have occurred in the wee hours of New Year’s Day. The Langley Police Department has been attending monthly meetings to get ready for this year’s New Year’s festivities and Y2K glitches. Chief Bob Herzberg said he believes there will be no problems with police department computers.Langley police will keep a high profile over the holiday. As at every New Year, cruisers will be on the streets and seemingly at every corner.“We just want to be seen,” Herzberg said. “We are there as a reminder so everyone stays out of trouble.” Nearly all police department members are available for the evening of Dec. 31. Herzberg added that law enforcement is depending on citizens to police themselves when it comes to keeping celebrations safe by using designated drivers. Island County Sheriff’s Department deputies are also ready for the anticipated New Year’s celebrations and any potential problems that come with them.“We will have regular staffing and will be treating it like every other day,” said sheriff’s spokesperson Jan Smith. “Because of the New Year, we will have very efficient staffing,” She added that the ICOM 911 dispatch center will be prepared for responding to emergencies as well.“Here in Island County, so many of our residents are used to short-term emergencies,” Smith added. “There shouldn’t be any problems at all.”If there are, authorities across Washington state and even in Washington, D.C., will know about it. Island County Emergency Services coordinator T.J. Harmon said her agency is required to check in with state and federal Y2K monitors every day between Dec. 28 and Jan. 4. That goes double for Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, when Harmon will call the state’s Y2K coordination center every couple of hours to give updates on how Island County services are operating. The monitoring period goes well beyond New Year’s Day because, Harmon said, many computer-related problems probably will not show up until the Monday following the holiday. That is when people will return to work to potentially find computers, fax machines, and other electronic equipment out of order.South Whidbey schools will resume operation Monday, Jan. 3, after their Christmas break. Superintendent Lisa Bjork told the school board last week that all school facilities should be in working condition. “We will be open here, but we have no control over the outside world,” she said. School heating, telephones and computers have been tested for Y2K compliance and are expected to function. On Saturday, some school personnel will be working and going through a Y2K checklist. If for some reason schools can’t open Monday, the public will be notified through radio and TV announcements, as in a snow emergency.Harmon said she believes Island County and the United States as a whole are well prepared for the date changeover. But, she said, she still worries about what may happen in countries that made fewer preparations for possible Y2K computer problems.“I’ll be watching CNN a lot that day,” Harmon said.Anyone who needs hospital help over the weekend should be able to find it at Whidbey General Hospital in Coupeville, where Y2K problems should be minimal.“We have been working on it for the past three years,” said Doug Bishop. Bishop, the hospital’s chief financial administrator, said that he expects to see few problems. The hospital has made preparations for the millennium bug throughout the previous years. Whidbey General has assessed all its computers and patient care equipment and has identified few problems. Hospital systems found not to be Y2K compliant were upgraded to avoid damage, or have been removed.“We’re more than prepared,” Bishop said. “One hundred-percent ready.” Bishop also said there will be additional hospital staff and administrators on duty throughout the New Year’s holiday. . . just in case.Keep an eye on Y2KWant to stay up-to-date on how the Y2K date changeover affects Washington State? If you have a Y2K-compliant computer and still have electrical power, dial up http://www.access.wa.gov on the Internet for the latest updates. If your computer is not compliant or the power goes out, well, you’ll pretty much get the picture without the Web site.The South Whidbey Neighbor to Neighbor group has assessed the Y2K prospects for local banks and food and fuel suppliers. For details see Christina Baldwin’s column “Neighbor to Neighbor” in the Community section."

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