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Community Planning for the Year 2000 Computer Problem (Santa Cruz model)

This is the community planning document being used in Santa Cruz county. This document went out to our local group participants as well as to task force leaders (12 or so) around the US & UK. Input is welcome.
William Ulrich
Tactical Strategy Group, Inc.
2901 Park Ave., Suite A-2
Soquel, CA 95073
phone: 831-464-5344

Community Planning for the Year 2000 Computer Problem

09/09/1998 Version 1

The year 2000 computer problem has, at the same time, been underestimated and overblown by people worldwide. As the end of the millennium draws near, many people will be blind-sided because they assumed that the millennium bug could never impact them. Other individuals, who remained complacent about the problem until late 1999, may find themselves shifting from a state of complacency to a state of panic. While people disagree on the potential severity of the problem, it is becoming increasingly clear that communities must manage the real, as well as the perceived, risks of the year 2000 problem.


Although the year 2000 problem sounds simple countless computers will malfunction as they encounter dates in the year 2000 and beyond. But the prevalence of computers in our lives means that if and when these computers fail, problems will range from mere inconveniences to life-threatening consequences. Both the public and the private sector are working on the problem, but collectively they cannot eliminate every year 2000 bug. While the year 2000 issue does not represent Armageddon, the threat to trade, transportation, healthcare, financial institutions and government functions is very real.

For these reasons, year 2000 experts around the world are volunteering to help ensure that their communities are prepared for any problems that may occur. This involves assembling a task force, building awareness, assessing community preparedness, helping schools and nonprofit organizations, and creating contingency and crisis management plans. Just as communities plan for earthquakes and other catastrophes that are much less likely to occur, they should plan for the year 2000 problem. Why should communities ignore this issue when we have the opportunity to educate ourselves, prepare our businesses, community groups and individuals, and ensure that the quality of life in our communities is maintained well into the next millennium.

Yet many communities remain unprepared. A September 1998 study of 100 New York state localities found that 26% of cities, 54% of towns and 48% of villages had yet to make any formal year 2000 risk mitigation or resolution plans. In addition to this, 61% of New York State fire districts also were not dealing with the year 2000 problem. We believe that these numbers are representative of the lack of planning at the local level across the United States. Worldwide, the level of readiness is believed to be much worse.

One should note that year 2000-community planning differs from traditional disaster planning because a disaster plan deals with a single event that people can run from or react to in some defined manner. While similarities exist, people cannot run from the year 2000 problem and, because we know when it will arrive, we can spend more time planning for it than we might for an earthquake or tidal wave. Furthermore, most physical disasters rely on aid from organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), state authorities, the federal government and other communities. If the year 2000 problem is as widespread as projected, this help will not be forthcoming because these entities will have their own problems. This means that communities may have to ìgo it aloneî.

Several years ago, Gartner Group published a briefing called ìDeath, Taxes and the Year 2000î with the point being that the year 2000 will arrive and problems will occur. With this as a backdrop, this document provides an outline for creating a volunteer-based task force whose goal it is to minimize year 2000 disruptions at the community level. We designed this document to be expanded over time based on feedback from community task forces around the globe.

Defining the Bounds of a Community

How large of an area can a local year 2000 task force address? This is a question that is raised consistently as these groups begin to emerge. The limitation of a task force boundary is not necessarily dictated by the number of individuals living within a region as it is on the reliance of shared services, common infrastructure and the concept of a common community.

In a rural area, the bounds of the effort are likely to include an entire U.S. county. In a major metropolitan area, the physical boundaries would need to be more contained or the management of the effort would need to be more formalized. In a city such as Chicago, for example, a single task force may be formed, working with city officials, to coordinate efforts inside of the city limits. Multiple task forces could then be assembled within the northern, northwestern, western and southern suburbs. Outlying counties could create their own task force teams. In this example, it is important for the task force to not let the effort get bogged down in city politics. If this occurs, the task force may need to proceed without city or county sponsorship.

In other metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles, task force efforts would need to be broken up across a much larger number of regions based on geographic distance and diversity. The point here is that if the boundaries cannot be managed under a given task force, the task force must seek formal sanctioning from a local government, as in our Chicago example, or split into multiple task force teams. Launching a task force in an urban area, in terms of the number of people, criticality of services, food and transportation dependencies, politics and other factors is typically more challenging than it would be in a rural area.

Getting Started: Building the Task Force

Even though year 2000 community task force is a grassroots, group-oriented initiative, every group requires a leader to organize and mobilize the team. The task force leader should be an individual that is year 2000 literate, is not a reactionary, has the ability to communicate and has connections with other experts outside of the immediate community. Typically, a leader will emerge to help coordinate task force efforts, but one may need to be drafted. If there is someone like this in your community, communicate the importance of ensuring that one's own community is prepared for the year 2000. It is important for any task force leader to recognize that serving in this capacity could take up to 10-20% of one's time.

As individuals emerge to take on the challenge, they can get down to the task of recruiting more participants and formalizing the team. The types of individuals required to garner support for the task force and perform many of the ongoing tasks are quite varied. They include:
The team leader and spokesperson
Representation from the local chamber of commerce
A person with emergency planning skills (typically found within county governments)
Professionals from local businesses skilled in:
Basic year 2000 strategies
Supplier research
Desktop and distributed systems
Embedded technologies
Legal requirements
Representation from one or more non-profit agencies
Local healthcare representation
Media representation
Community planners
Local government personnel from the departments of water, transportation, planning and health services
Other specialty skills as required

Community planning for the year 2000 requires that coordinators launch the initiative in an expeditious yet non-threatening manner. This requires holding a kickoff meeting that can be billed as a roundtable discussion for companies, government agencies and non-profit agencies. An initial sponsor (see Securing Sponsorship section) should reserve a facility, setup tables with signs containing various year 2000 topics (i.e. supplier research, testing, contingency planning, desktop systems, community planning, etc.) and post invitations with local businesses and in the media.

Once the participants have been assembled, you can introduce the idea of the task force and the other concepts contained within this document. Ultimately, the task force will be responsible for:
Formalizing volunteers and year 2000 experts into a task force
Recruiting additional volunteers over time as required
Drafting a task force charter (this document can serve as a starting point and be customized as needed)
Securing additional sponsors as required
Launching a community audit and monitoring program
Building a community awareness strategy
Coordinating with state and federal offices of emergency preparedness
Building plans to deal with the problem
Sharing information with other community task force teams

If a community has a local, year 2000 user group, as many do, much of this front-end work may not be required. A year 2000 user group can be the genesis for the task force because many of the desired participants are already assembled on a regular basis.

Securing Sponsorship

Year 2000 community task force sponsors help communicate key issues through corporate media contacts, provide meeting space for task force meetings, encourage employees to assist the task force and commit financial resources as needed. Sponsors help initiate and market the first and subsequent meetings. The first meeting typically requires a sponsor to donate meeting space and market the meeting to attendees. Sponsors can also put pressure on organizations that are unwilling to share compliance status.

Candidate sponsors typically are committed to the community, have a strong social conscience or may just want to garner the good will associated with helping to sponsor a year 2000 community task force. Suggested strategies include:
Finding a consulting company that wants to increase local visibility
Working with companies known to be generous to the community in other areas
Seeking companies that have a vested interest in community stability
Identifying institutions of higher learning that can dedicate meeting space and visibility
Looking for locally headquartered companies that have a vested interest in maintaining stability within the community

One way to approach a sponsor is to draft a letter to a candidate company's CEO, CFO, directors or communications department. Other strategies for securing sponsorship include using personal contacts or placing media pressure on companies that the task force feels have an obligation to support these efforts. A local government can also help sponsor task force activities, however, they may not be willing to do so when they are the target of the year 2000 audit.

Creating & Maintaining Community Awareness

The best way to prepare a community for the year 2000 challenge is to create a level of awareness within the community. This includes communicating relevant issues to small businesses, local government agencies, not-for-profit groups, schools, investors and individuals. At the individual level, the goal is to inform, but not to panic people about the year 2000. For small businesses, non-profits, healthcare and other institutions, the task force should focus on motivating these groups to take action and mitigate year 2000 risks for themselves and their customers.

This process requires collaboration with public officials that can provide continuous and credible information on the topic. The task force must also work with the media to disseminate information on what people can expect, what work has been done locally to address the problem and how they can prepare themselves for year 2000 related problems. Public service announcements, similar to those used for hurricane or flood watches can help manage the public's perception of the issue as the time runs down to the year 2000.

Subsequent sections of this document address additional messages that should be communicated to a local community. One or more individuals should be assigned the responsibility of building community awareness at the individual and organizational level.

Performing a Community Audit

The goal of performing a community audit is to ensure that problems that could occur due to a year 2000 problem are identified and addressed before it is too late. The targets of the audit process should include:
Electric power facilities
Requires checking out local sub-stations for compliance via inquiries or visits to the main or local facility
May involve checking with regulators, such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), to assess compliance status
Natural gas & fuel supplies
Continuity of natural gas delivery, particularly in cold weather climates, should be checked by working with the appropriate power companies
Water supplies
Sewage treatment, water purification and pumping systems require compliance testing
Audit teams should check with local water authorities to ensure that this has been done
Communication facilities
Requires checking with telecommunications provider(s) to the area
The priority is to ensure that, at a minimum, emergency calls (i.e. 911) get through
Research efforts may be coordinated through local government agencies to increase clout with the telecommunications provider
Waste disposal services
Continuity of waste disposal services are essential to maintaining public health
Audit teams should check with service providers to ensure that trucks and related processing equipment has been certified compliant
Food supplies
Continuity of supplies is the key issue
Audit teams should check with local grocers to assess supplier compliance analysis efforts
Chain stores can be checked out by first reviewing their web sites and then discussing contingency plans with local store managers
Conversations should stress the potential of late 1999 panic buying and related contingency plans
Fuel supplies
Local providers of fuel should ensure that their distributors and central suppliers are dealing with the compliance issue
Locally, stations should ensure that credit processing, fuel pumps and related functions have been checked out
Financial services
Local banks may need some awareness building
Look for branches of larger banks that have drafted pamphlets discussing Year 2000 readiness
Discuss readiness of money supply in 1999 and ATM compliance issues
Certain banks may want to partner in a small business awareness program to ensure that customers are dealing with the year 2000 issue
Local government services
Focus should be on ensuring that county, town, village and city governments are working on the problem
A blueprint for these organizations was developed by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and is available at the web site.
Emergency services
Teams should discuss police or sheriff departments compliance efforts for emergency vehicles, communication devices and other systems via local government reviews
Teams should review fire department readiness for vehicles and other devices via local government reviews (problems have been reported with raising truck ladders)
Transportation reviews
Teams should review airport compliance with airport managers to verify that incoming air traffic and related services remain uninterrupted (should involve local government)
Audit teams should review web site posting of incoming railroad companies to assess readiness and notify local businesses or authorities if compliance is an issue
Urban bus and rail traffic control systems require review
Ensure that traffic lights have been checked out and made compliant
Waterway transportation (where applicable) may rely on computer systems
Hospitals & healthcare facilities
Checking on Healthcare continuity is the most important function for an audit
Audit teams should meet personally with all major hospitals in the area to assess compliance efforts with equipment, suppliers (blood, gloves, etc.) and internal systems
Smaller providers should receive awareness updates
Local and state government services
Audit teams should check web sites, call and/or visit local government agencies
Information technology (IT) teams tend to be aware of the problem
Non-IT teams generally do not consider the ramifications of the problem
State agencies, like the office of emergency preparedness, can support these efforts
Educational institutions
Universities are good partners for the community task force, yet may require some awareness building in various departments (educators may need some educating)
School boards or administrators are the best target for reviewing public school status
Holding meetings to build awareness for private institutions is highly recommended
If a task force member has children in a local school, they should consider offering time to help out that school
Non-profit agencies
Non-profits could suffer from problems with supplies, computer systems, etc.
Educate them on the need to stockpile certain supplies and to consider backup power sources
Agricultural delivery continuity
Where applicable, local growers should understand the sensitivity of their equipment and delivery challenges
Economic stability
Schedule meetings with the team to discuss the potential of economic destabilization within the region
Share any concerns with local governmental supervisors

The typical audit process involves:
Taking the list of audit targets and refining it as required to fit local circumstances
Reviewing who has the skills and time to perform reviews of each target institution
Securing help from other community agencies, state authorities, review boards or sponsors as required
Developing and sending letters to introduce the audit concept to the target sites
Creating an agenda and meeting plan to interview people at each target site
Each plan for each target should include:
Identification of year 2000 threats
Audit approach
Recommended actions to minimize year 2000-related failures or problems
A review of the audit targets contingency plans
Post-audit monitoring strategy
If audit efforts are stonewalled, contact sponsors and the media to communicate that a lack of cooperation exists at the target institution
Drafting a summary of findings to be sent to local media groups

The audit is an ongoing process that includes an initial review and incorporates ongoing updates to monitor the situation.

Helping Schools & Non-Profits

The goal of helping schools and non-profits that may not be able to fund their own efforts is to ensure that the level of disruption experienced within these institutions is minimized. Children, the disabled, the elderly others may not have the ability, the understanding or the resources to ward off year 2000 impacts. A participant in one of our task force efforts represented a home for the elderly and was concerned about the loss of power. These issues must be discussed and dealt with in whatever way we can.

Community Year 2000 Planning

The goal of community year 2000 planning is to work with local officials and local media to ensure that preparations are made and that backup plans are in place should food, transportation, water, power, communication or other failures or shortages occur. This normally requires coordination with county or city agencies, but may also involve state support for certain areas. There are elements of awareness building and contingency planning contained in this section.

The community year 2000 planning process involves the following considerations.
Meet with local and state emergency coordinators to assess the problems that might arise and remedies for dealing with them
Create food supply management strategies:
Educate people on how to buildup food supplies without last minute shelf-clearing
Review food supply levels and preparedness for shortages
Increase local food inventories in advance
Verify that plans include helping the interned, sick and elderly
Create contingency plans for voluntary food rationing
Instruct people on what to do in case of power outages
Develop alternative water source strategies:
Educate people on having extra water around
Develop alternative ways of handling water shortage or purification issues
Verify that plans include helping the interned, sick and elderly
Build a plan to ration and distribute water in case of problems
Develop alternate communication plans for emergency services
Establish backup healthcare strategies for smaller or specialty care facilities
Create emergency communications plan (a Y2K watch) to instruct citizens in the event that problems occur
Create evacuation plans where applicable (mostly in urban areas)
Establish ongoing community meetings where issues can be aired and questions can be answered
Verify that local governments have allocated the proper amount of funding to these efforts
Consider other issues where relevant

Creating a Crisis Management Strategy

The goal here is to minimize chaos and maintain an acceptable quality of life while companies and governments work to return to a normal state of wellbeing. Police officers, firefighters and medical technicians respond to emergencies using advance planning to guide their activities. The main consideration is for local governments, working with the year 2000 task force, to prepare plans for managing a potential crisis situation.

Wind Down & Re-stabilization

The goal of the winding down phase of this effort is to return the community to its pre-2000 status. During this period, the community should focus on repairing infrastructure problems and rebuilding, if necessary, the local economy. This could take time and put other local projects on hold. Clearly this phase is one that many localities will overlook, but it is important given major infrastructure changes could harm a given community.

Sharing Information with Communities Worldwide

The goal of sharing information with other community task force efforts across the U.S. and around the globe is to exchange information that can benefit all of us. The Community Planning for the Year 2000 Computer Problem document will evolve over time as more and more communities pursue year 2000 planning efforts and provide feedback to

drafted by Tactical Strategy Group, Inc.

Professional Profile - William M. Ulrich

William M. Ulrich, President and Founder of Tactical Strategy Group, Inc.
in Soquel, CA, provides strategic information architecture transition
planning services to the information technology industry. With 20 years in
the computer field, Mr. Ulrich has helped hundreds of organizations
capitalize on knowledge embedded in existing computer systems. He is author
of TSRM and USRM, a Year 2000 and systems redevelopment methodology, and
hundreds of articles on the Year 2000 issue. Ulrich is Cofounder and
Executive Vice President of Triaxsys Research LLC, a research firm that
specializes in integrating information technology research from a legal,
economic and technical perspective.

Mr. Ulrich has lectured internationally to thousands of business and
information technology professionals on the Year 2000 problem and has
testified as an expert witness on the use of intellectual property within
the computer field. He serves as keynote speaker at various seminars and
conferences and is cofounder of two major Year 2000 conferences. Mr. Ulrich
is senior editorial advisor to the Year 2000 Journal and contributing Year
2000 columnist to Software Magazine, Computerworld and the ZDY2K web site.
He sits on an advisory board for a private Year 2000 Investment Fund and is
on the board of directors of the Data Fitness Initiative & Consortium, PSI
and Triaxsys Research. Mr. Ulrich continues to serve as strategic
technology advisor to corporations and government agencies and is co-author
of The Year 2000 Software Crisis: Challenge of the Century and The Year
2000 Software Crisis: The Continuing Challenge
- published by Prentice