No one knows for sure what, if anything, will go wrong when the new year begins, but FEMA says they are prepared to deal with whatever problems take place. Some FEMA officials are privately telling others to get ready for a tough winter.
“All of us in the business look around at each other and say, what do we expect from this thing? And everyone says, we don’t have the slightest idea,” admitted Jerry Connolly, FEMA’s assistant to the director for the office of Response and Recovery in Washington, D.C.
“The various people in the government don’t want to readily admit that anything’s going to go wrong because they’ve spent millions to make sure that everything goes right. At this point, no one knows what to expect. At the same time, if something does go wrong we’ve got the infrastructure out there that’s in place that has the capabilities to address the situation, to expend whatever financial resources are necessary,” he explained by phone to WorldNetDaily.
“We might get through this just fine, but the level of preparation we’re going through is expensive. That alone should tell you FEMA expects problems,” said the source.
Another FEMA official is planning to pick his daughter up from college for Christmas vacation rather than fly her home this year. He said he just isn’t willing to take the unnecessary chance that there may be Y2K computer bugs that cause airline safety problems. He said even the smallest problem in a few airports would mean incredible delays and problems all across the country.
“My own feeling is,” another FEMA Response and Recovery official said, “I don’t subscribe to the level of things, for instance that Gary North suggests (a noted Y2K expert). Those things collectively are not necessarily a cause of a big, massive problem. They’ll probably be the cause of something. If things are fragile enough, and I happen to believe the economy as well as society is somewhat fragile, what’s going to tip the apple cart? It’s hard to say any one thing, but there will be sufficient crazies out there who will use a new century and a new millennium as an excuse to say the old rules no longer apply.
“I don’t know what Y2K’s going to do. I don’t think anybody does. I tend to take a moderate view. It’s going to cause at least inconveniences,” he concluded.
FEMA is a unique federal agency because they can spend just about any amount they need or want. There is no annual appropriation, and their budget is not set. If there is money left over at the end of the budget year on September 30, that money remains with FEMA. Most other federal agencies lose funds they don’t spend by the end of the year, according to Connolly.
When FEMA finds a need, the money is made available. They have been asked to come up with an expectation of what it would cost to deal with 57 Y2K emergency declarations all at once, and as yet they haven’t been able to figure that out.
FEMA recently asked each of the states what their greatest needs were in preparing for Y2K problems. Requests came in for generators, communications equipment, and mass care.
“So we went out and we purchased about 1,000 generators, and these were all different sizes. Communications wise we have recently purchased two satellite phones for every state. Just so they can have connectivity with FEMA. We have quite a bit of communications equipment of our own, and if need be, if disaster is declared, we can purchase communications equipment and supply it out there if necessary,” explained Connolly.
States need the generators to provide power to essential facilities in the event of Y2K power outages. The expensive satellite phone equipment would be used to enable state government officials the ability to communicate with FEMA and other federal agencies in the event telephone services are down.
“On mass care, we’re working with the Red Cross. They’re in charge of our mass care. If they need augmentation we’re ready to utilize voluntary groups as well. We can pay for rental of space, food, shelter, whatever is needed to manage the shelters, but normally the Red Cross handles all of that, but just in case they were overwhelmed we could support them,” said Connolly of the availability of funds.
In the event of disruptions of power, telephone, food supplies and other essential services, the general population may be evacuated to shelters for safety, according to Connolly. The public has been advised by the Red Cross to have 72-hour kits well stocked because it will take three to five days before emergency supplies and shelters can be established in any particular area. Those who are better prepared may not be evacuated, he added.
“As far as we’re concerned, it’s voluntary (evacuations). But if the local government decides otherwise it would be up to the local government. You see it all the time during hurricanes on the coast. Where they may say the mayor has decided to evacuate the area. Sometimes they enforce it and take everybody out. Other times they allow people to have hurricane parties and what have you. It depends on the locality. There’s no federal rule,” explained Connolly.
A National Guard officer involved in Y2K contingency planning within the National Guard Bureau expressed concern over the large number of people with electric generators.
“We’ve discussed the fuel situation. That scares me to death. There are people storing gasoline in all kinds of containers. That alone is a disaster waiting to happen,” said the National Guard officer, who has provided significant information to WorldNetDaily for a number of articles.
He advised that people with generators should check their local ordinances regarding the proper storage of gasoline to avoid problems if an evacuation is ordered.
“Evacuations are based on who is safe and who is not. You need to have your own food, water, heat and sanitary facilities, and you need to be sure everything about them can be shown to be safe if you want to stay in your home during any kind of disaster,” he advised.
If a family has stored supplies for a month or more, and if they are able to remain in their home safely, would evacuation officials leave them in their home?
“That would be my guess,” said Connolly, but he added the final decision will be made by local officials on the scene.
Y2K problems may begin well before the start of the new year and extend for several months into it. FEMA and the Department of Defense have established the “Y2K transition date period” as beginning on September 1, 1999 and extending until March 31, 2000.
So what are the FEMA officials doing for their own preparations? What do they recommend when their friends, neighbors, and relatives ask for advice?
“First off, don’t panic,” said the one who will not let his daughter fly home from college. “Just pretend you’re in the north east and you’re exposed to ice storms and those kinds of things. The power may go out. What would you be doing? Have enough food in the house to last you a few weeks. Make sure you have some source of heat. Just enough to keep things going.
“You should also be taking out a little bit of cash each week, a little at a time so that when the time comes you’ve got a few hundred dollars in case you can’t get to the bank. Or maybe the ATM’s not working, or maybe there’s 50,000 people in line at the bank because they’re panicked.
“Don’t wait until the last minute to buy things. It will be Christmas time. People will be doing lots of buying. Add to that the stocking up that people will do because they think the end is near and you’ve got trouble. Just quietly put it by and don’t get caught in the mess.”