Sheriff details countywide Y2K preparations

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 29, 1999

Sheriff Don Nolander is getting the word out about countywide Y2K preparations that are in place for New Year’s Eve.

Wednesday, December 29, 1999

Sheriff Don Nolander is getting the word out about countywide Y2K preparations that are in place for New Year’s Eve.

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&uot;We’re not anticipating major problems, but we felt it is very important we have a system set up to provide for people’s needs,&uot; the sheriff said Tuesday.

People may cause one problem themselves.

&uot;Our biggest concern is communications, if there is an overload situation if everyone picks up their phones at 12:01 to see if it works,&uot; Nolander said, adding that kind of overload could happen anytime, if everyone picks up their phones at once.

And while Nolander said local utilities report they are Y2K ready, and the emergency 911 system at the law enforcement center is too, such systems and services also rely upon other computer systems located throughout the region and state. A problem somewhere else could result in problems here, Nolander said.

&uot;There could be a glitch somewhere else down the line,&uot; he said.

Sheriff’s deputies will be watching for power outages and other problems throughout the county in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The Y2K problem stems from a long-standing practice of using only two digits to represent a year in computer programs and embedded chips. Left uncorrected, ”00” might appear as 1900, throwing off systems. But, businesses and government have spent the past year preparing for Jan. 1, 2000 and thereafter by upgrading systems and correcting software.

Preparations in place for Friday night include law enforcement, fire and first responders countywide.

The countywide plan

Friday night, firefighters and first responders in 11 strategic areas of the county will be in place and ready to help anyone with communications problems, medical problems or other emergencies. Each location will have radio communications with the law enforcement center, and other emergency responders.

Starting at 11:30 p.m. Friday, the Albert Lea Fire Department will have four manned, bright fire department red pickup trucks located at each corner of the city, should anyone need help but not have phone service. These vehicles will be located at the Skyline Mall, 1701 W. Main; Northbridge Mall, 2510 Bridge Ave.; Trumble’s Restaurant, 1811 E. Main St.; and HealthReach, 1705 South Broadway Ave. Each truck has communications abilities, Nolander notes. The trucks will leave at 12:30 a.m., if no problems are apparent.

&uot;So if you have an emergency and need an emergency service, fire, police or ambulance and your phone service is out, all you need to do is go to any one of these four locations,&uot; states a fire department press release. &uot;Telephone officials warn us that if everyone picks up the phone after midnight to see if the phones are working, that it could knock out phone services and we would be without phones.&uot;

Countywide, the following 11 fire stations will be staffed with firefighters and first responders by 10 p.m. or earlier: Hartland; Freeborn; Alden; Emmons; Glenville; Myrtle; Hayward; Hollandale; Clarks Grove; Geneva; and Albert Lea Township in Albert Lea.

&uot;Should somebody have a problem, they can go to one of these places,&uot; Nolander said.

The fire departments will stay open as long as needed.

&uot;If at 1 a.m. lights are on, phones are working and everything’s fine, we’ll start sending people home,&uot; the sheriff said.

Also, several other fire stations will have staff available by pager, but will not have stations staffed: London, Twin Lakes, Conger and Manchester.

Additionally, the sheriff’s office will have two extra people on patrol, and will be able to sweep areas of the county to look for problems, such as power outages.

The law enforcement center is also linked to regional resources by radio and through amateur radio operators.

Be prepared

Nolander’s advice echoes that offered by officials nationwide: Be reasonably prepared.

&uot;People should prepare for this just like they would for any other winter weekend when severe weather threatens,&uot; he said.

That includes having food available, prescriptions filled, and other basic needs met, he said.