Firms, Government Keeping a Watch On New Year’s Eve
While many revelers will be popping the cork on New Year’s Eve, an unusually large number of San Diegans are required to work to safeguard against possible Y2K problems.
Dan Eberle, who will be in charge of the county’s emergency operations center in Kearny Mesa, won’t be thinking of fireworks Dec. 31.
Eberle and 60 county employees and volunteers will be on standby from 4 p.m. Dec. 31 throughout the night to respond to any emergencies, Y2K-related or not.
“We will bring in representatives from various departments in the county , the chief administrative office, health department, emergency public works, liaisons from the military, water authority, gas and electric, the department of forestry and elsewhere to check their area of responsibility by radio and telephone,” he said.
Ironically, Eberle said he’s less worried about a Y2K disaster than human errors that may be interpreted as Y2K-related.
So when the phones are busy and the electricity goes out Dec. 31, it doesn’t necessarily mean Y2K has struck, he said.
For instance, telephone companies have historically restricted their circuits on New Year’s Eve to control the high volume of calls.
Similarly, San Diego Gas & Electric Co. has reported on past New Year’s Eves several incidents that would cause the electricity to go out, most of which were prompted by human error , such as drunken drivers steering their cars into telephone poles, Eberle said.
No 911 Expected For 911
He also foresees no Y2K-related problems with regards to the countywide 911 system, adding that the county spent some $18 million to get the system Y2K-compliant.
Kathleen Shilkret, head of communications for Wells Fargo Bank in Southern California, is equally unconcerned about Y2K glitches.
“The whole banking industry is probably the best prepared, because banks have regulators that had timetables when our systems were to be compliant,” Shilkret said.
She added Wells Fargo Bank spent some $300 million to prepare for Y2K and sees no reason to open its branches Jan. 1 , a national holiday.
Still, the bank won’t take any chances on New Year’s Eve, she said.
Several hundred Wells Fargo employees, including Shilkret, are required to show up at several corporate communication and processing centers around the country to deal with unexpected Y2K crashes when computer systems roll over from 1999 to 2000.
The media undoubtedly will be watching closely.
Cliff Albert, news director of KOGO-AM in San Diego, said some 10 reporters have been assigned to various San Diego destinations to report on potential Y2K glitches when the clock strikes midnight Dec. 31.
Destinations will include ATMs, the airport, train stations, SDG & E;, the county’s emergency center, and the mega-millennium party at Balboa Park, Albert said.
Reporters will give updates four times every hour and be on the air until 2 a.m., he added.
But that’s not all.
Starting Dec. 30, KOGO will join ABC News and CNN in bringing live reports on Y2K celebrations from all over the world, he said.
Albert admitted the big event is costing the station several thousand dollars but had no problems in recruiting willing reporters to cover it.
Raymond Young, who will be directing the KUSI 51 television news team at the new millennium, anticipates the station will highlight major local events, but nothing out of the ordinary.
“We aren’t doing anything special,” he said.
Neither is a local biotechnology company. “Most of our equipment is new and the software is Y2K-compliant,” said Christopher Reinhard, president and chief operating officer at Collateral Therapeutics in San Diego.
Biotechs On Standby
But he, too, will have two staff members on standby to ensure that scientists’ experiments and frozen materials will be salvaged in case of a power outage.
Robert Trimble, director of research center operations at Collateral, said he’ll be equipped with a cell phone starting Dec. 31 in case the biotech’s hired security firm calls.
“I will be there on the eve of Dec. 31 and on the 1st to check on everything to keep some peace of mind of the researchers,” Trimble said.
He said a glass of champagne is not out of the question on New Year’s Eve, considering the lab is only a bike ride from his Del Mar home.
Meanwhile, San Diego law enforcement officials are less optimistic others on San Diego streets will be so conscientious.
Eberle said the city of San Diego restricted vacations for police officers to make sure they’ll be available for millennium parties gone out of control.