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Emergency services still lag in Y2K preparations

Despite major progress by the federal government, many of the nation's 911 call centers as well as other businesses still aren't ready for the year 2000.

Despite major progress by the federal government, many of the nation's 911 emergency call centers as well as other businesses still are not ready for the year 2000.

Surveys of more than 2,700 of the nation's emergency call centers--most of which are operated by local governments--found that only 55 percent were Y2K compliant as of October 1, according to John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion.

Y2K: The cost of
fear With only 52 days to go until the New Year, contingency planning is critical to contain and minimize any disruptions that may result from Y2K-related computer failures, Koskinen said.

Despite strong progress in a number of sectors, Koskinen said there inevitably will be computer systems that experience difficulties related to the date change. Organizations and individuals should have contingency plans to deal with problems, he added.

"One of the realities of the Y2K challenge is that there are going to be systems that have problems," said Koskinen "There will be glitches. Some of them won't surface until after January 1. The important thing is for organizations to have appropriate back-up plans for whatever Y2K problems occur."

In the council's fourth and final status report on Y2K preparations, Koskinen also voiced concerns about small businesses that are taking a "wait-and-see" approach to the millennium bug, a design defect that may lead to computer malfunctions or failures on January 1.

Smaller health care facilities continue to be difficult to assess on a national level, the report said, but considerable work remains to prepare many health care providers. Only 40 percent of the industry is Y2K compliant, Koskinen said, citing independent survey data from July and August.

Additionally, computer systems in more than one-third of elementary and secondary school districts and higher educational institutions still are not fully Y2K compliant, according to Education Department survey data from the fall. Four percent of school districts said they would not be ready by January 1.

At a press conference today, President Bill Clinton praised the progress of government and big business, but voiced concern about those industry sectors that still lag behind.

"Some small businesses, local governments, and other organizations have been slower to address the Y2K challenge," said Clinton. "So again I say to these groups, don't just sit back and wait for problems to occur."

Back to Year 2000 Index Page A survey by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in April indicated that 28 percent of small businesses with possible exposure to year 2000 problems don't intend to prepare for the date change. Updated results from a new NFIB survey are expected in December.

"Concerns also exist about organizations that have late- or end-year target dates for completing Y2K work and are not developing continuity of business contingency plans," Koskinen wrote in a summary of the council's findings.

"These organizations are not leaving themselves enough time for unexpected delays or problems that may arise in testing," he said.

Overall, the council said it has "a high degree of confidence" in the Y2K readiness of financial services, electric power, telecommunications, air and rail travel, oil and gas, and the federal government.

As of Sepember 30, 99.6 percent of federally insured financial institutions had completed testing critical systems for Y2K bugs.

Likewise, electric companies report that more than 99 percent of "mission-critical" systems were Y2K ready as of October, the report said.

Koskinen said it was unlikely that there would be "major national failures or breakdowns" in the United States. He cited predictions by the CIA and the State Department that Russia, Ukraine, China, and Indonesia, however, may suffer "significant failures."

During his press conference, Clinton also addressed the international Y2K situation.

"And while most of our large trading partners are in good shape, we still have concerns about the Y2K preparations of some developing nations. The State Department will continue to update its country-by-country assessments and advisories as new information becomes available," Clinton said.