Q: You recently participated in a Y2K simulation at the county level in which computer clocks were advanced to test how well they would respond in 2000. What happened?
A: We decided to do a realtime emergency management exercise. We had been at our remediation program for nearly three years, had a growing level of confidence in the work that we had done. We thought it wise to do a realtime test.
Like many large urban counties, we have a very sophisticated emergency management system that we exercise a couple times every year. A lot of the time, we exercise around scenarios based on weather events, terrorist attacks, chemical spills or hurricanes. It occurred to me that, with the importance of Y2K, it would be a very appropriate subject around which to build an exercise. That's why we did it. A third reason, from just a management point of view, is I wanted to be sure that I understood what resources
we might need to have available come Dec. 31, 1999, so that when the calendar turns and the clock turns, we weren't left to just try to find resources, people, equipment, whatever, without having some advanced knowledge of what we might need.
It was a daylong exercise. One feature was the actual advancing of the clock for major systems. We decided to advance the clock on our E911 computer-aided dispatch system and our automated traffic management system. We have about 700 signalized intersections in the county, most interfaced with computer connections. We thought it would be smart to exercise that. We also exercised our accounts payable and voter registration systems. We literally advanced the clock, and the good news is that all of the four systems worked flawlessly and reported no problems.
Q: You conducted these tests during non-peak hours of traffic and usage, but what was the emotional anticipation beforehand?
A: It's interesting. In the planning for the event, I actually had some staff members, including some public information staff, who said: "Do you really want to do this? What if it fails? What if they don't work? Aren't we going to look foolish?"
We had a lot of confidence in what we had done. We had a high level of confidence that they would work. But we took the position that even if something doesn't work, it is far better to have us find that out now, a year in advance of the actual event, in a controlled environment where we weren't jeopardizing public safety. So that was our rationale.
We first turned the clock forward on the E911 system at 3 o'clock or so in the morning to be a truly off-peak time because we did not want to jeopardize public safety. We did the traffic signal roll-ahead at 10:45 in the morning after the morning rush hour. We think that was just a prudent approach, but there is always a risk.
Q: I realize that you might be in a different situation than other less-prepared counties nationwide, but just hearing that there was no problem and it came off flawlessly -- and realizing that there are a lot of people making money off problems associated with Y2K -- do you think there may be a lot of needless Y2K hype?
A: In some quarters, yes, there is an element of overreaction in the sense of some folks saying what should be done. Some individuals are advocating massive stockpiling of material, drastic changes in a person's daily routines. For those suggestions, there is an element of overreaction.
A prudent approach is to be concerned about realistic things that can happen and plan accordingly. For example, we think it's prudent to be certain that our fleet of vehicles is fully fueled and that we have stockpiles of some