Northwest NEWS

January 3, 2000

Front Page

Local government officials monitor Y2K

by Marshall Haley, staff reporter

   WOODINVILLE--Remember that old anti-war slogan, "What if we had a war and nobody came?" On New Year's Eve, as television stations broadcast joyous millennium celebrations from every time zone, some were saying Mayor Paul Schell's political career was over if a bomb did not go off in Seattle. Bye-bye, Paul.

   Woodinville had several city officials, fire station personnel, and City Councilmembers on location at the city's Emergency Operations Center at the Fire & Life Safety District headquarters last weekend. To their relief, Y2K was a non-event.

   "If anything happens in Seattle, we're always on standby, under the 'Mutual Aid Agreement,'" said Dave Leggett, Woodinville Fire & Life Safety Public Information Officer. Woodinville added one fire engine and one aid car to their usual staffing, Leggett said.

   Ray Sturtz, Director of Community Services, and his assistant, Charleine Sell, began their shift at 6 a.m. Friday, monitoring CNN's broadcast as Y2K followed the sun from the central Pacific time zones, starting at the International Date Line. Auckland, New Zealand, was the first major city to experience the unprecedented potential phenomena at 3 a.m., Friday, PST. Since the Pacific Standard Time zone was one of the last to enter the new millennium, few surprises remained here.

   Woodinville Finance Director Jim Katica went to City Hall early Saturday to restart the City's computer system, prepared to administer high-tech "Raid" to any virtual infestations of "millennium bugs." On New Year's Day, Marie Stake, Woodinville's Y2K liaison, said the exercise was good emergency preparation for all agencies involved.

   John Urquhart, King County Sheriff's Office spokesman, said the County EOC at Boeing Field was scheduled to be "on alert" for three and one-half days--or longer if unexpected problems arose--starting early Friday morning through Monday afternoon. The Sheriff's Office was in the same mode as during the WTO conference last month, he said, with 250 officers on duty and 350 more on standby. The Woodinville EOC maintained phone links with the County EOC throughout the weekend.

   The County EOC gathering of county officials, utility, banking, and law enforcement groups was formed to coordinate quick response to any potential problems, from potential service disruptions to resulting social unrest. The County follows the same agenda for flood or earthquake disruptions, said Urquhart.

   The County EOC had the added advantage of direct Y2K-related reports from around the world, via international offices of several major Seattle corporations, said Urquhart. He recommended various online links, if people's PCs survived Y2K: www.metrokc.gov, King County's website, has an "emergency center" site with links to state and federal agencies, such as the state Dept. of Transportation (DOT), which can advise people on road closures, etc. That could be helpful if terrorists bomb any King County bridges, a possibility FBI officials warned against last week.

   Any larger-scope problems would be handled by state and federal agencies, he said. That would include such potential problems as those related to the Soviet Union's warning that they could not predict how their missile systems would respond to Y2K, because they didn't have the money or manpower to update their military mainframes. Thankfully, that also proved to be a false alarm.

   The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) opened its Regional Operations Center (ROC) in Bothell on a 24-hour basis from Thurs., Dec. 30, through Sun., Jan. 2. As the lead agency for the President's Council on Y2K Conversion Emergency Services Sector (ESS) working group, FEMA worked closely with state counterpart agencies, collecting, analyzing, and forwarding information on state critical sectors to the Council's Information Coordination Center (ICC) in Washington, D.C.