The President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion has prepared a free pamphlet, called "Y2K and You," that discusses the potential impact of the Y2K bug on utilities, health care, financial and governmental services, travel, and everyday products.
The booklet asks readers not to overreact to millennium hype, stressing that people should prepare for the date change as they would a long weekend.
"It is extremely unlikely that the Y2K issue will cause banks and other financial institutions to lose track of your finances," one section notes. It advises having half a tank of gas in cars and three-day's worth food and water at home, emphasizing that these are normal wintertime precautions.
Governments and consumer groups are putting Year 2000 plans into place to make sure citizens know what to expect during the date change. British officials recently announced they would spend $15 million to distribute informational leaflets to every person in the country.
The Y2K problem, also known as the millennium bug, is rooted in the way dates are recorded in computer code. Previously, systems programmers used two digits to represent years to conserve PC memory. With this format, however, the year 2000 is indistinguishable from 1900.
Council chairman John Koskinen said he doesn't expect the United States to suffer significant computer problems related to the Y2K bug. Yet people still need to be wary of any potential issues.
"Individuals should be prepared for the possibility that there could be temporary disruptions in some services," Koskinen said.
In the booklet, there is a checklist for personal readiness that suggests keeping copies of important records before and after January 1, 2000. It also recommends families check with appliance manufacturers to make sure that home electronics are Y2K compliant.
"The most important Y2K information any of us can have is about the readiness of our own communities," said Koskinen. "People need to take the time to read Y2K notices being provided by local governments, bands, phone and power companies, supermarkets, and others so that they have a better understanding of what to expect in their neighborhoods and can prepare accordingly."
The council prepared the booklet in cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Trade Commission.