FEMA calls on president's council for more help on 2000 preparations

The Federal Emergency Management Agency needs more readiness assessments from the
President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion before it can prepare an emergency
response plan to handle possible year 2000 disruptions, a FEMA official said.


“We have to plan for the unknown at all times,” said Lacy Suitor, FEMA’s
executive associate director for response and recovery. “We need the
assessments.”


FEMA is charged with developing an emergency response plan in case power plants, rail
lines, airports, docks and telecommunications infrastructures, for instance, break down
because of faulty date code.


FEMA has preliminary plans for deploying personnel and equipment before Jan. 1, 2000.
But more assessments can only increase the agency’s readiness, Suitor said.


Part of the problem, Suitor said, is that the agency needs more input from the industry
and government experts who make up the 34 working groups investigating the kinds of
failures that could occur when 2000 arrives.


FEMA director James Lee Witt will release the agency’s year 2000 plan in February
at a meeting of the National Governors Association.


Sen. Christopher J. Dodd hammered away at the government’s readiness during a
hearing last month of the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem.


The Connecticut Democrat asked John A. Koskinen, chairman of the President’s
Council on Year 2000 Conversion, why the council’s working groups have not produced
more assessments. Those groups are responsible for determining systems that could cripple
utilities, telecommunications, transportation, financial systems and government generally.


“There’s a real potential for serious disruption in this country and
elsewhere,” Dodd said. “If you don’t have your assessments, you can’t
lay plans out effectively.”


The council does not have the authority to mandate the assessments, Koskinen said.


“You certainly would not hear any complaints from me if you were to set
dates,” Dodd said.


The electric, oil and gas workgroups have finished assessing the country’s power
grid and published their findings, Koskinen said. The council posted the results at http://www.y2k.gov.


The Year 2000 Information and Readiness Disclosure Act, which recently became law and
protects companies that share proprietary information during assessments, will help,
Koskinen said. More company officials will be willing to participate, he predicted.


The council expects to release more assessments soon, Koskinen said. 

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