California's top cities promise critical systems are A-OK for Y2K

California's top cities promise critical systems are A-OK for Y2K

By Mark A. Kellner

Special to GCN

LOS ANGELES'California's largest cities'Los Angeles and San Francisco'fuel screenwriters' disaster fantasies and have survived real-life upheavals in the past decade. But emergency preparedness officials in both camps declare that emergency communications systems will be 2000-ready.

'We are making every effort to be as ready as we need to be to continue those critical services. We're working very hard in that direction,' said Christine Hayashi, a deputy San Francisco city attorney who is communications manager of the city's year 2000 management office.

Frank Martinez, executive director of Los Angeles' year 2000 project office, said that the city's emergency communications have built-in redundancy. 'We will be ready,' he said.

Communication preparedness is taken very seriously in these cities. Each one has recently experienced a major earthquake'San Francisco in 1989 and Los Angeles in 1994. Both disasters caused losses of dozens of lives and billions of dollars in property damage, consequences some observers fear in case year 2000 disruptions are more widespread'or long-lasting'than the majority of forecasts predict.

Each city has had a dress rehearsal for year 2000 disruptions during the past year. During one such drill, 1.2 million gallons of sewage spilled into a park after a glitch interrupted operations at the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. The park was closed for several days because of the risk of contamination.

In San Francisco, a power outage caused by a maintenance error at a Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) plant in neighboring San Mateo left the city dark for eight hours. Workers were stranded in elevators, and one woman died when a truck sped through an intersection that lacked traffic lights. At the time, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said the incident might indicate what could happen with year 2000 disruptions. The December blackout 'was certainly a wake-up call for PG&E,' Hayashi said.

In San Francisco, the city is focusing emergency systems preparations in '14 mission-critical departments, things that will affect the health, safety and transportation ability of the public,' she said. 'The 911 system is in the process of being inventoried, assessed and remediated.'

'We are communicating quite a lot with our principal suppliers' and getting good reports, she said.

'The parallel action is to review the equipment we have, inventory it and identify the problems we have and fix them. At the same time, we are also doing independent verification,' Hayashi said. 'Once the [14] departments have done the assessment, remediation and testing, the project management office is sending in engineers to verify the results.'

In Los Angeles, Martinez said the city is very far along in its year 2000 preparations for emergency communications. The police radio system, made by Motorola Inc., has been checked by the city, the manufacturer and the original systems integrator; all three gave it a clean bill of health.

The city is also installing a new police radio system for its mobile data terminals.

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