- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 28, 1999

District of Columbia officials are urging residents to prepare for more than a week without private and public services as the new year approaches, though most other jurisdictions have advised being prepared for only a few days.

The D.C. Emergency Management Agency's "Y2K Preparedness Guide" tells readers to "store a supply of seven to ten days worth of nonperishable foods per person."

It also warns residents to "set aside enough cash to meet living expenses for at least a one-month period" and "consider renting or purchasing a generator."

Peter G. LaPorte, the agency's acting director, said the guide is not intended to scare residents nor contradict the rosy picture Mayor Anthony A. Williams painted nine days ago.

"If you say you need to be prepared for three days, people blink at that. So you say be ready a little longer," Mr. LaPorte said. "The idea is to take those proper precautions."

Mr. Williams was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Local officials and businesses have said for several weeks that their computers are ready for the year 2000.

Nancy Moses, a spokeswoman for Pepco, which provides electricity for the city and most of nearby suburban Maryland, yesterday said the utility is ready and not asking customers to gird for anything unusual.

"We've spent $12 million over the past five years to be sure that the system is ready and will work," she said. "Our recommendation is for people to plan as if it's a three-day holiday weekend."

The city's guide advises residents to buy batteries for flashlights (rather than use candles), keep financial records in a secure place, contact neighbors and have a neighborhood emergency plan.

The city has run several preparation drills, including one yesterday for people working New Year's Eve.

"We don't expect to have to put the plans into action, but the plans are in place and they're tested in case we need them," Mr. Williams said Dec. 19. "I want to assure all our residents that if you call 911 or there's a problem at the power company or there's a snowstorm, you will get the service you need. We will keep the city running."

The city has spent more than $140 million preparing for the millennium and overhauling its computers to ensure they function properly Jan. 1. Many older systems were considered apt to malfunction because dated information used only the last two digits of the year and could not distinguish "00" as 2000 rather than 1900.

Of the city's 378 computer systems, all the "critical systems" are year-2000 compliant and 96 percent of all systems are ready, Mr. Williams said.

About 95 percent of the city's 15,000 personal computers also are ready; the rest are scheduled to be replaced in the final days before the new year.

Some local banks have placed signs in the windows of their branch offices and messages on ATM machines telling customers the banks are ready for the new year.

Mr. LaPorte said residents have welcomed the call for preparation, which is applicable to more than year-2000 problems.

"We know people have done some of the things," he said. "A lot of the people have said, 'I really don't have my essential documents in a secure place.' It's just good common sense."

Early weather forecasts for Friday indicate cool temperatures but no snow, Mr. LaPorte noted. He could not estimate how many people will attend festivities at the Mall and the city's two-day "Main Street Millennium" on Constitution Avenue.

"This is a difficult one to peg," he said of the expected turnout, comparing it to the annual "Taste of D.C." and Fourth of July celebrations.

City officials will monitor New Year's fallout in other cities around the world, Mr. LaPorte said. Additionally, representatives from Bell Atlantic, Pepco and other utilities and businesses will be in touch with city leaders throughout the first night of the new year.

"More than half the company will be working," Pepco's Ms. Moses said. "We would normally have a skeleton staff."

D.C. officials also will keep in close contact with Maryland, Virginia and federal authorities, Mr. LaPorte said.

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