NEWARK, N.J. -- The transition to the Year 2000 is not expected to bring major, national problems with the nation's infrastructure and the country can avoid localized disruptions if work begins now to make systems compliant, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Deputy Director Mike Walker said today.
"Nothing about Y2K is preordained except for the date," Walker said, speaking at the NY/NJ workshop, the second 10 Y2K workshops FEMA is holding across the country with state and local emergency managers and Y2K coordinators to prepare for the Year 2000 transition.
"We know what the problem is and we know how to fix it," he said. "As leaders is our respective sectors, we should as a matter of first priority resolve to encourage those to fix that which has not yet been fixed. That is the surest way to prepare for Y2K."
Walker told the more than 200 participants at the workshop in Newark that a lot of progress has been made in dealing with potential Y2K problems. "But a great deal remains to be done, particularly in the small business sector and in many small towns and counties," he said. "We in the emergency services sector should prudently plan for numerous small disruptions, which could occur simultaneously across the country." Based on current information, he said, the potential disruptions are likely to be localized and limited in scope and duration.
Walker said that people should prepare for potential Y2K disruptions like they would prepare for disruptions caused by a winter storm. People do not need to stockpile supplies or fear the kinds of national disruptions some extremists are predicting, he said. In fact, he warned that the kinds of actions many are recommending such as hoarding or taking money out of banks could actually precipitate the very disaster the 'naysayers' are forecasting.
"I have a great deal of faith in the American people," he said. "I know they will see through the naysayers and fearmongers who are trying to scare us or make a buck. When you look at everything Americans have dealt with throughout our history, Y2K is nothing. Yes, it poses a challenge. But it pales besides the great challenges Americans have previously faced and the great challenges Americans have conquered."
It is important that we tell American people everything we know, he said. "For an educated public is a strong public. And an educated public will always make the right decisions."
Other speakers at the opening plenary session at the NY/NJ workshop included Lynn Canton, FEMA director for Region II, and members of the National Y2K Team, representing the U.S. Departments of Energy, Health and Human Services and Transportation, the Federal Reserve Board, National Communications System, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the American Red Cross.
The schedule for the initial series of FEMA Y2K Workshops is as follows:
Atlanta Feb. 17?18 New York City Feb. 23-24 Boston Feb. 24-25 Philadelphia Feb. 25-26 Dallas March 9-10 Chicago March 10-11 Kansas City March 11-12 Seattle March 23-24 San Francisco March 24-25 Denver March 25-26
FEMA is one of nine critical sector coordinators working with the President's Council on Y2K Conversion, headed by Presidential Advisor John A. Koskinen. The Emergency Services Sector (ESS) group is working to make sure that all segments of the nation's emergency management community operate normally through the cross-over period from 1999 to the Year 2000 and beyond and are able to handle the consequences of potential Y2K disruptions.