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Tech Week on Community Y2K action

This story is from Tech Week in Silicon Valley. The reporter circulated the draft of her story to the people she had interviewed, resulting in factual corrections that made the story extremely useful. -- Tom

How to Become a Community Y2K NERT

by Amara D. Angelica

From Santa Cruz to Santa Rosa, Bay Area community groups are sprouting up in
preparation for Y2K.

This trend should accelerate with a recent Senate report warning of global
trade disruptions and advising Americans to stock up on canned food and
bottled water in case vital services are cut off.

How do you start a group? Half Moon Bay,s Coastside Citizens, Emergency
Preparedness/Y2K Group organizer Shelley Evans and Laralee Harkness
(650-712-0723), organized a group in a mobile home park where residents are
worried about Y2K. They ran newspaper ads and about 20 activists now meet

They also attended two city council meetings to get local government involved.
"It took awhile, but when I mentioned that they could be liable individually
if the city weren,t prepared, their whole attitude changed," Evans says. The
city finance manager, police and fire chiefs now attend the group,s events and
are helping plan neighborhood emergency response training.

Other groups are further along. The Santa Cruz Y2K Community Task Force
(831-464-5340), formed last September by Mihaela Moussou and Y2K
author/consultant William Ulrich, has 60 volunteers, says media coordinator
Brant Herrett. "A recent town meeting brought out 500 people," he says. "An
estimated 200 were turned away after the auditorium filled to capacity. A
larger meeting is planned that will be held in the larger Civic Auditorium in

Marin Y2K Action (415-460-0925) is also very active with biweekly meetings,
including a recent forum at the Marin Civic Center. The group has forged a
working alliance with the Marin County Office of Emergency Services and will
have a seat on a newly-formed county-wide task force. The task force will
include representatives from county government, the local water district,
PG&E, the local hospital, the Red Cross and many other sectors.

Coordinator Wendy Tanowitz says Marin Y2K Action is "helping to form groups in
each town in Marin County. We have a vision of county-wide block parties which
could take place this summer."

Napa (Mick Winter, 707-257-2737) and Sonoma County (Jean Wasp, 707-528-6203 or
Grace Fellowship, 707-526-1926) also have active groups in various
communities. Others include:

Y2K-Resilient Berkeley Group holds weekly meetings (Cathy Holt, 510-665-3775);
BayY2K, a San Francisco discussion group, meets monthly (415-931-2593);
Y2K Contra Costa (Doris Copperman, 925-937-8321) holds biweekly meetings in
and Foster City holds Y2K community workshops and small-business forums
(650-286-3333, ext. 925).
"San Francisco doesn,t have a city-wide group coordinating Y2K activities at
present," says organizer Kali Grosberg (415-673-6416). "But there are
individual neighborhood efforts in Haight-Ashbury and elsewhere. Some NERT
(Neighborhood Emergency Response Team) groups are forming, she says, comprised
of "individuals trained by the S.F. Fire Department to provide emergency
support for region-wide disasters. After a six-week training, they can join
their neighborhood NERT organizations."

Oakland 2001 (510-595-5505) is developing Community Preparedness Centers in
various neighborhoods to accommodate people during an emergency. Coordinator
Rosa Zubizarreta says the group has written a $71,000 proposal to the City of
Oakland to publish and distribute multilingual brochures, create a Y2K
Awareness Day park event in May, set up a Y2K information phone line and Web
site, create neighborhood teams and develop forums to brief community,
education and business leaders.

She says the proposal was inspired by Portland Mayor Vera Katz,s ambitious
plan to organize 200,000 households into 10-block "Eco Teams" coordinated by
volunteer leaders to prepare for failures of basic services lasting up to two

The Y2K squad

Unfortunately, Silicon Valley is AWOL when it comes to Y2K community groups.
Mary Ann Gallagher of Sunnyvale (408-733-0468) and Jason and Annie Corbett
(650-368-8780) of Redwood City are hoping to change that.

However, United Way of Santa Clara County will dispatch a "Y2K Squad"
(408-345-4212) to small and mid-size nonprofit organizations in Santa Clara

Also, San Jose,s Oak Grove High School has teamed up with two IDG Books
authors"K.C. Bourne and Dean Sims, Year 2000 Solutions for Dummies and How to
2000, respectively"to train 20 students in diagnosing PCs for Y2K compliance.

"We,d like to see it grow to other communities," says IDG Books spokesman Bill
Maxfield (650-655-5067).

"Most of the student volunteers are enrolled in our advanced placement
computer science course," says Dennis Barbata, technology coordinator of Oak
Grove High School. The students will only do hardware and software diagnosis,
not repairs. They,ll be using Test2000.exe ( and WRQ Inc.,s
Express 2000 (

The project is similar to New Technology High School,s Y2K Bugbusters in Napa,
apparently the first group of high school kids to work with nonprofits on
their Y2K problems. The Napa students use NSTL Inc.,s free YMARK2000
( and follow the CompuMentor protocol

Radical surgery

Speaking of Y2K repairs, the city of Oakland is making a bold move. Rather
than patch up programs, it,s ripping out its old IBM mainframe, replacing or
upgrading 978 PCs and installing a new NT client/server environment with
Digital Equipment Corp. 8200 Alpha machines. And it,s installing new Oracle
software for its financial, budget and payroll systems. Total bill so far:
$18.5 million.

But data conversion hasn,t gone smoothly because of delays by Cordoba Corp., a
Los Angeles-based contractor lacking Y2K programming expertise, says the
city,s Y2K program manager Ray Ju. "Their subcontractors walked off the job
for ten days. We,re now looking at other options for data conversion."

Full Y2K compliance is expected in September, including among suppliers, says
Daren Jimenez, Oakland,s Year 2000 Task Force project manager.


Bay Area Y2K groups

Like to join or organize a Y2K group? See TechWeek,s new Bay Area Y2K
Community Groups Web page ( Let us know about changes
and additions.


For more information

"Y2K: What You Should Know," American Red Cross disaster preparedness brochure

"Y2K Bulletin Preparedness Guide," February 1999, FEMA, 800-261-6214

"Contingency and Consequence Management Planning for Year 2000 Conversion,"
February 1999, FEMA ( This guide for state and
local emergency managers includes a comprehensive checklist of equipment and
systems"a great questionnaire to spring on officials for emergency services,
public works, utilities, banks, etc."and forms to help determine the effects
of outages.

"Y2K Citizen,s Action Guide," Utne Reader, November 1998. On newsstands or

"Suggested Steps of Y2K Community Preparedness"


Staff writer Amara D. Angelica can be reached at