Vermillion, Clay County are ready for Y2K

Vermillion, Clay County are ready for Y2K by M. Jill Sundstrom Mention Y2K and an alphabet soup of questions, jokes and comments spew forth from those in your company.

Ben Taylor, Clay County Emergency Services director, however, has taken potential problems seriously and he is confident that come the new year, Clay County and the City of Vermillion will have no problems.

"We're ready," Taylor said. "As far as everything goes, we're all set for it."

Y2K simply defined is a potential computer problem resulting from the 1900 to 2000 change of dates. According to the Institute of Noetic Sciences, in the early days of computers, when memory was at a premium, programmers started using jus the final two digits of a date code to designate a year, taking the "19" for granted. Now, as a result, many programs may erroneously assume that the year 2000 is actually the year 1900, possibly corrupting data and creating widespread problems because of our dependence on computer based technology through the industrialized world.

Clay County was among 50 of the state's 66 counties and several large cities that took part in a Y2K emergency test of services earlier this month. All showed they are ready for any problems that may occur.

"We held our exercise in the Emergency Operating Center," Taylor said. "We had 14 people present who are key players that would be involved if need be."

The emergency test used a fictitious severe snow storm on Dec. 31 that caused a power outage and made roads and streets impassible.

"What do we do? Where do we go to keep warm? How do we get to the store for groceries? All of these things were discussed thoroughly by everyone here for the test," Taylor said. "Clay Union Electric will be at their building with a full crew in the case of a power outage. The hospital will have its staff on hand. The city will have its personnel on stand-by. The ambulance and fire departments are always on stand-by. The rural water system has stand-by power so that their water lines will remain full of water.

"We're ready for Y2K as far as we can be," he continued. "Like the test, we've been told to think of South Dakota's potential for severe winter weather and treat it that way."

In that respect, Taylor pointed out that preparedness is up to the individual.

"If worse comes to worse, people have to take care of themselves," he said. "We've had many winter storms in which the power goes out and people have survived. We just have to remember not to panic. All in all I don�t look for that. We have pretty solid people in Vermillion."

The American Red Cross has developed a checklist for individuals to prepare for the new year and potential problems. Preparations include:

? Check with manufacturers of any essential computer-controlled electronic equipment in your home to see if that equipment may be affected.

? Stock supplies to last several days to a week � as if preparing for a storm. Supplies could include nonperishable foods, bottled water and prescription and non-prescription medications that you regularly use.

? Keep your automobile gas tank above half full.

? Have extra blankets, coats, hats and gloves to keep warm.

? Have plenty of flashlights and extra batteries on hand.

? Examine your smoke alarms and replace batteries if necessary.

According to Matt Adamski, Y2K coordinator for the city of Vermillion, a Y2K task force has been working diligently on the "Year 2000 Compliance" issue for the city�s mission critical systems since September of 1998. The city council recently received a report on Y2K compliance.

The summary includes:

Electric Department

Vermillion purchases power from the Western Area Power Administration and the Missouri River Energy Services which have assured the city that their operations will continue up to and through the year 2000 transition. The city, upon receipt of the power, is confident that all customers will maintain their normal level of service.

Water Department

Vermillion's water treatment and distribution systems are not based on computerized equipment. The switches and controls are either mechanical or flow/level controlled. Vermillion residents will have water service.

Wastewater Department

Vermillion's wastewater collection and treatment systems are also controlled by mechanical systems or flow/fluid level devices. The wastewater systems will continue to operate normally.

911 Emergency

Communications

The Vermillion/Clay County Emergency Communications system has been upgraded to ensure that the enhanced 911 system will continue to operate normally, provided that phone systems in the area operate.

Ambulance Department

The Vermillion/Clay County Ambulance Service has been cleared as year 2000 compliant. The only equipment on the vehicles potentially susceptible to any problems, the on-board defibrillators, have been cleared as compliant. All services provided by the Ambulance department will continue without interruption.

Fire Department

The Vermillion/Clay County Volunteer Fire Department does not have any equipment threatened by the "Y2K Bug." All the services provided by the fire department will continue in a normal fashion.

Police Department

The Vermillion Police Department has verified that the crime prevention and protection services provided to Vermillion residents will continue without interruption.

City Finance Office

The Vermillion Finance Office went through an evaluation process to determine its year 2000 compliance. As a result, the computer network used in the office was replaced with a new network � guaranteed as compliant by the vendor who installed the system. The services provided by the finance office will not be interrupted by the new year.

"I feel confident in the status of the city for Y2K compliance," Adamski said. "I think we�re going to come through it just fine."

As the report states, 911 emergency communications are also ready.

"We've done upgrades to make our equipment compatible locally," said Karen Olson, emergency communications coordinator. "U S West has tested the equipment for Y2K, demonstrating rolling the dates and everything was successful for the 911 call processing equipment.

"U S West is urging people NOT to call 911 to test it when the new year comes," she continued. "And don�t panic if the phone lines are busy. That may happen because a lot of people will be calling to wish their relatives and friends happy new year."

According to a statewide survey of Y2K compliance issued by the Associated Press, potentially affected systems throughout South Dakota are ready. Percentages of readiness, based on that survey include:

Banking, 100 percent; electric and natural gas, 97 percent; emergency 911, 100 percent; fire, 99 percent; state and local governments, 99 percent; hospitals, 94 percent; nursing homes, 100 percent; medical clinics, 99 percent; ambulance services, 98 percent; police departments, 98 percent; sheriffs� departments, 97 percent; sewer, 94 percent; city water, 99 percent; rural water, 100 percent; telephone, 99 percent.

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