BURBANK -- When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, most
people will be out partying and ringing in the new millennium. Not,
however, most members of the Burbank police and fire departments.
Officials of the two departments say they are confident the city won’t
experience any major Y2K-related problems on Jan. 1, but they plan to
step-up enforcement just in case.
Since the beginning of the year, the departments have been
aggressively preparing for potential problems that could arise when
computer systems change from 1999 to 2000.
Y2K -- or the Millennium bug -- is a technological problem in which
computer programs with two-digit date codes are unable to distinguish
between the years 2000 and 1900. Computers that have not been fixed to
handle the change, could experience breakdowns on Jan. 1.
Officials from both departments say they will boost staffing on New
Year’s Eve just in case.
More than 25 officers - from patrol to the gang unit - will be out on
the streets on New Year’s Eve, said Burbank Police Lt. Larry Koch.
Additional officers will be on call should they be needed, he added.
Usually, around 17 officers are on patrol on a Friday night shift.
The fire department will have an additional rescue ambulance, two
engines, a hazardous materials squad and fire prevention personnel in the
city on New Year’s Eve, said Rich Baenen, the department’s disaster
Both Koch and Baenen said their departments’ computer systems and
equipment are certified Y2K ready.
“We believe that everything will function properly,” Koch said. “All
the in-house computer systems - including the records computer and
computer-aided dispatch - have been upgraded and tested.”
The department has spent about $20,000 to upgrade and audit its
systems, said police Chief David Newsham.
“The majority of our systems were already Y2K compliant,” he said.
To ensure the change goes smoothly, city officials from the police,
fire, public works, public service and parks departments will be
stationed at the Emergency Operations Center at the Fire Training Center
on Ontario Avenue beginning at 6 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, Baenen said.
The center will be tied into state and county emergency offices, which
will be monitoring how the rest of the world is being affected by Y2K,
Baenen said the state teamed with the Federal Emergency Management
Agency on a system called the Sun Project, in which people all over the
world will be reporting problems in their areas.
“These folks will be assessing essential elements - water, power,
computerized functions - and report back through various communication
channels to Sacramento at the state warning center,” he said. “The
information then fans out to the counties and then to local emergency
operations centers like Burbank.”
For example, if a particular model of elevator is reported to have
failed in a part of the world that changed to 2000 before California,
emergency personnel in Burbank would be notified and could act to prevent
problems before they arise, Baenen said.
Baenen said the threat of technological problems isn’t the biggest
concern for emergency personnel. “Any New Year’s Eve there are a larger
number of power outages - sometimes that happens if someone is
celebrating and shoots a gun into the air and the bullet hits a
transformer or someone is intoxicated behind the wheel and hits a utility
pole,” he said.
In the event of a power failure, Baenen said residents should not call
911 but instead tune into AM-1620, the city’s emergency radio station, or
call (800) 994-BURB. Updates on what’s going in Burbank can also be seen
on Channel 6, the city’s cable television station.
When midnight rolls around, Koch warned that people shouldn’t pick up
their phones just to see if it works. It might not.
“The phone company is worried that at 12:01 a.m., everybody will check
to see if their phone works,” he said. “If all the phones go off the hook
at the same time, then the system will go offline.”
Even if that happens, “You could still dial 911 and get through to the
police,” he added.
Though no problems are expected, Baenen said that people should be
“If people are ready for a major earthquake, then they’re going to be
ready for Y2K,” he said.
For information on how to prepare for Y2K, call the Burbank Disaster
Preparedness Office at 238-3491.