Mock Y2K scenario to determine county preparedness | CraigDailyPress.com

Mock Y2K scenario to determine county preparedness

Christina M. Currie

— The question remains in the hours before midnight, Dec. 31 will officials and residents of Craig be prepared for any number of possible disasters?

The answer to the question was determined today at a countywide tabletop disaster drill aimed at gauging Y2K preparedness.

Representatives from utility companies, city and county government, law enforcement, medical services and volunteer organizations were invited to walk through a scenario presented by County Emergency Management Coordinator Clyde Anderson. Forty departments or agencies were invited to the drill.

According to Anderson, the scenario represents the “credible worst case scenario,” one that has more likelihood of occurring than the worst case scenario.

“We tried to make this exercise a realistic scenario,” Anderson said.

The drill is divided into stages called “modules.”

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The first is the hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve. According to the pre-written scenario, the weather service calls for light snow and the temperature is 20 degrees.

“I was pretty easy on them,” Anderson said. “I could have made this 20 below.”

Craig City Hall has been designated an emergency operations center and officials are prepared to use it if necessary. Because Colorado is one of the last time zones to hit midnight, officials have been watching broadcasts from all over the world attempting to judge how the millennium bug will affect Colorado. As midnight draws nearer, officials believe power will be lost and law enforcement officials are preparing for panic buying including runs on grocery and convenience stores. Because it is New Year’s Eve, law enforcement officers will already be busy.

Close to midnight, the National Weather Service predicts 10 inches of snow and temperatures from 0 to 9 degrees during the night. Moffat County commissioners and the Craig mayor open a fully-staffed emergency center.

As midnight hits, residents are reduced to the use of HAM radios as the only form of communication. Area stores are requesting security because of the lack of power and attempts of theft.

The scenario goes on to include dumpster fires, closure of the Hayden Airport resulting in a request that Moffat County house more than 200 people who are stranded there and the need to transport 50 people stranded in Maybell because a public bus broke down.

The issues officials discussed today included contingency plans for water and fuel for generators, ambulances and fire trucks, determining which 911 calls are priority calls and how to rotate emergency personnel for response.

According to the scenario, there will be no mutual aid because other counties are suffering the same problems, but some ask whether Moffat County can offer medical or housing services.

The fire department will be kept busy with this scenario responding to dumpster fires, house fires as people use inappropriate alternative heating sources and several carbon monoxide alarms caused by cooking and heating using unsafe methods.

During the scenario, natural gas remains on line, but is unusable because of the lack of electrical power.

Toward the end of the scenario, the power returns and, after 14-inches of snow in a weekend, there is a break in the weather. The thaw causes problems as water pipes begin to break.

By Friday, Jan. 7, most of the county will be back to normal and all employees will be asked to return to work.

One result of the tabletop scenario will be to determine what information should be given to the public in terms of preparation.

After the scenario was outlined, those attending divided into groups and discussed what will be done. Once the group meets again, a spokesman from each group will discuss solutions and plans.

“At this point they will be allowed to not have a solution,” Anderson said. “I do think there’s a realistic solution to all of these problems.”

The drill will be used to bring Y2K concerns and questions to the front of officials’ minds and hopefully urge them to prepare a plan.

Anderson stressed the scenario was just an exercise, that he doesn’t believe the problems will be as disastrous as he once thought.

“There’s no indication now that this scenario is going to happen,” he said. “For everything to fall into place for this to happen, a lot of things have to go wrong. As things progress, there is more and more information that it’s not going to be as horrible as we first thought.”