Police department set for Y2K glitches

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People, power and a plan are what Craig Police Department Chief Walt Vanatta believes will be necessary to weather the celebration that marks the new millennium.

Not only does the department have to contend with a potential computer glitch that may cause loss of power and telephone outages on midnight Dec. 31, officers also have to prepare for a night of heady celebration as people ring in their chance to celebrate a new century and a new millennium.

Several workshops and disaster drills have been held since Y2K became a national issue and from those, the Craig Police Department has created an emergency plan that addresses a variety of scenarios, but, according to Vanatta, is flexible enough to be almost all-encompassing.

"Hopefully we've got everything in place where it won't be a big deal," he said.

Problems associated with the new year come at a good time because most businesses will be closed and students are not in school, Vanatta said. His biggest concern in creating the plan was the possibility of a citywide power outage.

"It brings the potential for panic should the power outage last an extended amount of time," he said. "We're pretty well set to have alternative power."

Beginning at 8 p.m. Dec. 31, a countywide command post will be established in Council chambers of Craig City Hall. If there is a loss of power, the command post will be powered by a generator. A second generator will provide enough power to keep the Police Department functional, including providing power for dispatch services, lights, computers and telephones in City Hall.

Several people will be invited to man the multi-agency command post including the police chief, Moffat County sheriff, fire chief, government officials and representatives from area utilities.

Staffing at the Police Department will also be increased and all vacations during that time have been cancelled. Officers may be expected to work longer shifts to increase patrols to handle an anticipated increase in calls for service.

Vanatta said if nothing else, he expects a larger than normal call volume.

"In some cases it could be a phenomenally large call volume," he said. He has also scheduled additional dispatch personnel to handle service calls.

In order to save officers time and keep them patrolling streets instead of doing paperwork, the department has worked out a system with the Moffat County Sheriff's Department for handling arrestees. The Sheriff's Department has agreed to have its prisoner transport van available for transporting arrestees from the scene to the jail. Officers will complete all paperwork at the scene before transport. According to Vanatta, a worksheet has been devised to give the jail all necessary information without taking too much officer time. Usually an arrest takes an officer off the streets for 30 minutes to an hour. To save more time, officers want to keep arrests low.

"If we have the option of doing a summons and release, that will be our first option," Vanatta said. "This should save time and keep available officers on the street and not tied up in jail."

Arrangements have also been made to transport residents to the hospital or shelters if needed.

The goal of the plan is to keep as many officers on the streets as possible. To help do that, area businesses will be asked to provide their own security or make extra personnel available since law enforcement response time may be delayed due to an increase in call volume.

But getting those calls may be a problem for police officers.

In the event of a power failure, the Police Department has an option for direct communications on its radios. If the radio system doesn't work, cellular phones will be used for communications. A cellular phone will be kept in dispatch and the number will be advertised in the Moffat County Y2K preparedness brochure.

If cellular phones don't work, patrol officers will meet at the command post for instructions, be dispatched and return to the command post. If telephones don't work, patrol officers will concentrate on anticipated problem areas, Vanatta said.

Volunteers or portable stop signs will be used if traffic lights fail. In any case, they are to be treated as four-way stops.

The command post will be open until 8 a.m. Jan. 1. The city Road and Bridge Department will be able to pump enough fuel for vehicles and generators to keep that portion of the city operational. Officials with the Road and Bridge Department said they will have enough fuel for about a week and are able to pump it with no electricity.

There is a plan in place to deal with potential problems, but Vanatta still isn't sure how much of a problem will be created because of the millennium bug.

"There's so many 'ifs' with this issue," he said. "I think most people are comfortable this will be a non-event in terms of Y2K. If the worst happens, we're prepared to handle it. We have a responsibility to at least prepare for the worst."

In any event, the department plans to use the emergency plan as a training exercise.

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