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Look Out! Here Comes Year 2000

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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 and banking).

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 didn’t receive your brochure, threw it away (it looked a lot like junk mail), or don’t live in Canada, the information is free and is posted on the Internet at:

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 it’s headlines like the one below that grab our attention …

Are we all going to die?

No … 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 (Canada’s Y2K expert) is now predicting only a "three-day" problem scenario.

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 … or take some basic steps to protect yourself.

What’s 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 month’s worth of problems.  Remember, if you prepare, you won’t panic or be caught up in a panic.

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

Don’t hesitate to form groups (family, friends, or neighbours) to share the preparation.

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:

"Let’s work the problem, fellows. Let’s not make it worse by guessing."

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams:


Source unknown:

"Don’t Worry - Be Cautious"

Finally, don’t let others do your thinking for you. Prepare yourself and do it now.

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.

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