Personal Contingency Planning
Written on March 10, 1999 by Robert & Karen Vanderzweerde
Appeared in Greenmaster Magazine on June/July 1999
In Canada, the week of February 7, 1999 was declared to be "Year 2000 Preparedness
Week" and every household was sent a brochure called the Millennium Bug Home Check.
The brochure focused on personal possessions and what impact Y2K would have on them
(e.g. your car, stove, toaster, alarm system, and PC) and some services (e.g. insurance
While the government should be applauded for their efforts, they focused on
reassurances and did not deal with potential failures in our society and how to address
them (e.g. lack of power or phones or problems in certain businesses that failed to
prepare adequately). This article will address some of these issues.
NOTE: If you didnt receive your brochure, threw it away (it looked a lot like
junk mail), or dont live in Canada, the information is free and is posted on the
Is there really a problem or is it all hype?
Yes there really is a problem and you should prepare. No one knows for sure the
potential extent and severity of the situation.
The Gartner Group, a respected computer consulting and research firm, surveyed 15,000
companies in 87 countries. They predict that even the best prepared companies and
countries may still experience problems and that 15% of businesses within Canada will
experience at least one mission critical system problem.
Remember that predictions of "the end of the world as we know it", disasters,
and bad news make great media. The media is trying hard to provide a balanced view
to the Year 2000 but its headlines like the one below that grab our attention
Are we all going to die?
but there may be disruptions.
Howard Belasco (Y2K Consultant) likens the potential problems to a hurricane or
blizzard that will snarl our lives for a week or so. Even Peter de Jager
(Canadas Y2K expert) is now predicting only a "three-day" problem
What should we do?
You could "head for the hills" and become totally self-sufficient (i.e. a
survivalist) and concentrate on shelter, water, fire/heat/power, and food
some basic steps to protect yourself.
Whats a reasonable strategy?
Develop a contingency for the December to January time frame. How much you do is
dependent on your risk tolerance. Many people are planning for a months worth
of problems. Remember, if you prepare, you wont panic or be caught up in a
Many of the items listed below are common sense. The expense involved is moderate
and recoverable (i.e. you will eat your extra food eventually).
Here are some things you may wish to consider:
- Keep some cash on hand
- Consider some foreign currency as well
- Top up the fuel in your car
- Stock up on wood for a fireplace, extra fuel, batteries, and candles. Consider a
generator if necessary but they are already scarce
- Keep a battery-operated radio handy
- Fill up your BBQ propane container
- Get extra food and water, especially non-perishable items
- Ensure you have warm clothing and blankets
- Make sure you have an adequate supply of medications
- Obtain first aid supplies for injuries or illness in case you cannot get to the hospital
- Make a list of financial assets and liabilities. Get bank and investment statements
- Obtain paper copies of your personal records, tax, insurance
- Monitor your utility bills for any unusual changes
- Review your investment strategy (are you risk averse?)
- If you plan to go away, lock up your home and make sure your valuables are stored
safely. Consider that the power or telephone may be unavailable and that security
systems may be off, disconnected, or failed. If there are problems, people will take
advantage of the situation
Dont hesitate to form groups (family, friends, or neighbours) to share the
Finally, watch out for scam artists. They will dwell on Year 2000 scare tactics
and fears to part you from your money.
Some words of wisdom
NASA Flight Director, Gene Krantz, Apollo 13:
"Lets work the problem, fellows. Lets not make it worse by
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams:
"Dont Worry - Be Cautious"
Finally, dont let others do your thinking for you. Prepare yourself and do it
CAUTION: This article does not cover all facets of the issue nor does it address
everything you could do to protect yourself. It is intended to provide some basic
common sense steps that you can take. Your particular situation may require you to
take additional precautions that you must determine for yourself. Please be aware
that this information is provided as a courtesy and makes no claims or guarantees with
respect to its completeness or accuracy.