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Fire and police departments say bring on Y2K

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

preparedness coordinator.

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.

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.