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County readies for Y2K

County emergency managers will ask fire departments and other agencies to staff stations New Year’s Eve, if the millennium switch disrupts utilities.

Tuesday, December 07, 1999

County emergency managers will ask fire departments and other agencies to staff stations New Year’s Eve, if the millennium switch disrupts utilities.

That means Lawrence County residents without phone service to call 911 because of the so-called millennium computer bug could find help at their nearest radio-equipped firehouse, or a designated building if their township doesn’t have a fire station, 911 and Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency director Don Mootz said.

Within the next week, the EMA will contact fire departments, township trustees, village mayors and others about specifics of the plan.

"We’re not looking for any big crisis to happen, but we need to be prepared in case something does happen," Mootz told representatives of seven fire departments and several law enforcement agencies Monday night.

The group brainstormed for ideas on dealing with potential Y2K communications problems.

The 911 center and its communication towers are protected by backup systems, while fire departments and emergency responders, like ambulance services, have backup generators, Mootz said.

Amateur radio operators also have pledged to serve as communications links in case of an emergency, and police monitor Citizens Band radio channel 9, he said.

Communication between police, fire, rescue, ambulance and other emergency personnel is not the problem, Mootz said.

"The question is what are we going to have people do when they don’t have a phone," he said. "We’re worried about them getting a message to us if they need us."

Consensus among fire and police officials was the "central point" plan.

For example, Coal Grove firefighters had already planned to keep their station open three days and nights during the millennium change and to place a firefighter at the police station in case someone knocks on the door there, said Gary Sherman, assistant chief.

"We’ll have a couple of boring days, but we want to be there in case something happens," Sherman said.

Representatives of South Point, Perry Township, Lawrence Township, Ironton, Hamilton Township and Rome Township fire departments agreed, adding that they will have staff available to open the fire stations New Year’s Eve in case of an emergency.

The EMA staff will remain on alert, with radios, that night, Mootz said.

If phone communications break down, then the EMA staff will activate the Emergency Operations Center in Ironton and ask fire departments or other agencies to open the central buildings where county residents can come to report any emergencies, he said.

Still, the EMA foresees no Y2K problems, Mootz said.

It’s just as likely that a snowstorm could cause a communications failure, in which case opening central locations for residents would also work, he said.

"We just want to make sure people have a way to get help in an emergency."

Once the EMA’s list of central locations is determined, it will be publicized so residents know their nearest communications point, Mootz said.