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Archive for Thursday, December 30, 1999

STATE READIES Y2K WAR ROOM

December 30, 1999

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A Emergency Operations Center is being prepared to provide communications across the state as the new year is rung in.

State emergency management officials are preparing a war room in Topeka to deal with any Y2K-related emergencies developing after 12 a.m. New Year's Day.

Not only will officials monitor events in Kansas, they will keep track of developments around the world and provide communication links with emergency management offices in surrounding states and Washington, D.C.

"We deal with disasters and emergencies on a daily basis," said Joy Moser, public affairs officer for the adjutant general's department. "If things go bad, we'll be ready to deal with it."

The communications links include high-tech radios that communicate around the country as well as across the state.

Twelve Army National Guard armories around the state and the two Air National Guard bases will have staff on hand to respond to communications from the war room, officially called the Emergency Operations Center.

The center is in the basement of the State Defense Building in Topeka. The Cold War-era building has its own generators and a two-week water supply, Moser said.

"It's built to withstand a lot," she said. "We can button up in here."

Those 12 armories are the battalion headquarters for various units based in the state. They will relay communications to National Guard personnel, if they are needed to deal with emergencies.

Not only are officials geared up for possible Y2K problems, Moser said, they will be prepared to respond to a likelier emergency: any weather problems that may arise.

Y2K, however, is unique in one way.

"This is the only potential disaster event we have scheduled," Moser said.

Within the Emergency Operations Center, officials from the National Guard, Division of Emergency Management, Kansas Highway Patrol, Red Cross, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be on hand.

County emergency management officials will send the status of services in their localities. Those dispatches will be displayed in a chart of the state showing each of the 105 counties. Color codes will show whether services are being provided normally or are interrupted. Also, the displays will show whether the interruptions are Y2K-related, Moser said.

The county-by-county information will be displayed on computer monitors. In an adjoining media room, the same information will be displayed on a screen, similar to a Powerpoint presentation, Moser said.

No National Guard units have been placed on alert, she said. Some personnel will be on-call. Only about 30 National Guard personnel will be on duty across the state, she said.

Operations in the emergency center will begin as early as 6 a.m. Friday. The office will stay open as long as necessary, but assuming there are no emergencies, until about 6 a.m. Saturday.

Even if there are Y2K problems in Kansas, Moser said, "It's not going to blow through here and leave death and destruction and rubble. It's not like it's critical to life. It may cost time and money for business."

State agencies are adopting similar plans to deal with the transition to the year 2000. Kansas University and KU Medical Center will have command centers operating on the Lawrence and Kansas City, Kan., campuses to monitor how systems function on Jan. 1.

Lawrence and Douglas County also will operate a Y2K command post.

-- Erwin Seba's phone message number is 832-7145. His e-mail address is eseba@ljworld.com.

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