What if Y2K really happens?
Would you know what to do if you wake up on Saturday – the first day of the new millennium – and have no power?
It’s a scary thought, but one that must be explored just in case things don’t go exactly as people plan.
– Some food supply. An emergency kit is a good idea, no matter what time of the year or millennium it is.
Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini highly recommends the public have certain items handy.
“People need to be prepared at any time, regardless of what it is,” Pierini said. “The chances are that it’s not going to be a problem here in Douglas County.”
Pierini suggests homes have some food storage, water supply, heating source and a radio with extra batteries.
“Communication is key,” he said. “The local station should tell you what to do. Tune in. Don’t panic. Stay in your house. Don’t abandon your family. You need to take care of your own family first, and make sure they’re safe.”
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will provide services as normal.
“None of this stuff is new,” Pierini said. “We really have a good emergency program. I can’t imagine things being worse than a couple of days. People will not suffer, we won’t abandon them.”
Should there be problems, Pierini says to call 782-9911 for assistance.
Radio station KGVM-FM will be operational, even if there is a natural gas or energy loss, thanks to donations by the Kiwanis Club, to insure their power supply.
– Watching the world. Emergency Management Communications Director Dick Mirgon is not worried about Y2K, but he pointed out that officials “will be watching what happens around the world.”
Mirgon compares Y2K to a normal Northern Nevada winter storm.
“We don’t expect any power outages to occur,” he said. “If there were, they would pick up on it within a matter of minutes.”
Mirgon said that if power did go out, just relax and pick up a good book.
“We recommend food storage irrespective of the Y2K thing. People should have two to five days of food, medical supplies and flashlights,” Mirgon said.
He said that people should not pick up their telephone to see if it works at midnight.
“Everyone does not have their own line. If everyone picks up the phone, some won’t have a dial tone,” Mirgon said. It would also impede any emergency phone calls trying to get through at that time.
“In the event of a substantial problem, we will ask volunteer firefighters to man the station so people can come by,” Mirgon said.
He recommended the public tune in to the local Cable Access Television Station Channel 26, the local radio station KGVM and the Emergency Alert System, which would be on the radio stations.
Officials also keep records on those who use oxygen or have other specific health problems, and will send people to check on them if need be.
– Power should not be a problem. If the power does flicker, it won’t be because of Y2K, said Bob Sagan, spokesperson for Sierra Pacific Power Co.
“We don’t anticipate anything happening,” Sagan said.
At the same time, he also recommends that people have an emergency kit with a radio, extra batteries, flashlights and extra fuses.
Sagan emphasized that should anything happen, it would not be Y2K-related, but more than likely drunk drivers who run into power poles, or a storm.
If there is a problem with power, he said the public should call their local Sierra Pacific Power Co. branch. Staff will be on duty and standing by.
– Phone company is ready. Even if the power did go out, telephones will continue to work, said Mike Page, public affairs manager for GTE.
Page said that since 1995, approximately $400 million has been spent, and 1,000-1,200 Y2K professionals have worked internally to make sure that GTE is ready.
“If there is a problem, it is very unlikely it will have anything to do with Y2K,” Page said. “GTE is ready for Y2K. If there is a phone problem, most likely it is from damage to external equipment. It would just be a coincidence that it happened on New Year’s Eve and Day.”
Should people find they have no dial tone, Page said they should plug the phone into the gray box on the outside of their house, which can be opened with a screw driver.
If there is a dial tone with the box, then the problem is the inside wiring of the house. If there is no dial tone, the problem is with the phone company.
He also said people should check with their neighbors and try again later.
Page also said that people should not check their phones at midnight.
“Phones are like a freeway system. They’re not meant for everyone to use at the same time,” Page said.
Any problems with the phone system on Jan. 1 will probably be due to damage to equipment, which happens all the time.
– Rush on gas. Some Carson Valley residents are filling up their cars in the event that things don’t go smoothly at gas stations when clocks turn over to year 2000 this Saturday.
Gardnerville resident Archie Reed visited the Park Place AM/PM station in Gardnerville to fill his car and a 5-gallon gas can for his generator.
“Not that I believe in this stuff, but …” Reed said.
Customers said that just a few minutes earlier, a man was filling up five gas cans.
AM/PM’s manager Steve McIntyre is confident in his store’s ability to serve all of his customers.
“We will have plenty of gas,” McIntyre said, describing the station’s capability to store 30,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline.
“I’m anticipating a rush on gas Thursday and Friday,” McIntyre said, though sales are already above last year, which he attributes to a combination of good traveling weather and Y2K concerns.
“If everybody tried to fill up on Friday, the 31st, it would cause a major problem at all the gas stations,” McIntyre said.
His advice to those who are concerned about gas is to fill up early, and not wait until the last minute.
Also, if there is a rush on gas, the price may go up due to shortages.
“I don’t plan on raising the price of gas this week,” McIntyre said, “but we can’t predict the price of gas. It changes every day.”
McIntyre was emphatic that he would never raise the price to slow down consumption.
“I love pumping gas,” he said.
McIntyre also said that all of his computers and equipment have been upgraded to be prepared for Y2K, but he can’t guarantee the power company.
– Just a little cash. Banks have been very busy educating their customers on what to expect for Y2K, so as not to cause a panic or run on the banks.
Paul Alvarez, Gardnerville resident, said he is thinking about taking out some cash before Y2K.
Alvarez was making a transaction at the Wells Fargo branch in Gardnerville when he asked the bank teller if people were withdrawing a lot of money.
“She said people were pulling money out and leaving just a few dollars in,” Alvarez said.
Y2K Coordinator for Greater Nevada Credit Union, Mike Richardson, expressed their policy of not focusing on Y2K as an issue.
When asked about members withdrawing more money than usual, Richardson said the credit union hasn’t seen very much deviation from normal.
Todd Lineemann, marketing manager for the Credit Union, said, “If members do come in wanting a lot of money, we encourage them to use traveler’s checks. That way, we maintain a copy so they get it back if it is lost or stolen.”
At this point, Richardson feels that “the odds of any type of activity are very remote,” with the New Year so close.
“It would have happened the first two weeks in December, and it didn’t,” Richardson said. “If they were going to (withdraw a lot of money) they would have already. They wouldn’t wait for the week before New Year’s.”
This is good news for the general public.
“You have to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Richardson said. “We’re very pleasantly surprised, very happy.”
Both Richardson and Lineemann emphasized that Y2K is a non-issue for the bank.
They do understand that the public may have concerns, and have planned to have full staff in their physical branches and telephone service branches this week.
They will even have their telephone service open from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on New Year’s Day.
“It’s more for peace of mind (of our members),” Richardson said.
If members want bank statements, they may get them on the e-branch on the Internet.
Richardson recommends members who are concerned to simply plan enough money for a three-day holiday weekend, equating Y2K to adverse weather, and having enough cash to run down to the grocery store to buy milk if needed.
n Mono County. The Mono County Sheriff’s Department and Mammoth Lakes Police Department have taken it upon themselves to specifically address any problems that may occur.
“These potential disruptions may create emergency situations that can be mitigated with some advance individual and family preparedness planning,” the Mono County and Mammoth Lakes departments wrote in a news release.
They suggest that “all households be prepared to be self-sufficient (able to live without running water, electricity and/or gas, telephone and assistance from safety devices) for three to seven days.”
Families should evaluate themselves and their needs, using steps similar to those used for other emergencies like earthquakes and severe winter weather.
They mentioned that cash, food, and gas in cars are a few things to be considered.
Both the sheriff’s and police departments are prepared to answer questions.
The office of emergency services may be reached at the Mono County Sheriff’s Department (760) 932-7549 or the Town of Mammoth Lakes Police Department (760) 934-2011.