To prepare for 2000, a friend (and tech-savvy former employee of ZDTV) plans to withdraw all the money in her savings account and store the cash under a mattress in her house. My reaction: Girl, are you insane?
Home appliances and computers will stop working. Store shelves will stand empty of food and supplies. Power grids will fail, and planes will fall from the sky. Should we all hide in a log cabin equipped with a wood stove and oil lamps? Or at least hook up a power generator at home?
Let's get real. We're not nearly as dependent upon bug-free technology as we'd like to think. (When was the last time your Internet browser went an entire week without crashing?) This isn't about the apocalypse. It's about basic disaster preparedness. And IMHO, we should all prepare for common emergencies, natural and human-induced, period.
A major earthquake may devastate San Francisco tomorrow. Yet most people I know in this city still don't have a flashlight within close reach of their beds, and they don't have even a minimal supply of bottled water.
The millennium bug might affect services ranging from global utilities to financial institutions to air traffic control. With clocks advancing to double-zero, some (or all) of us may wake up on January 1, 2000, to a world without electrical power or communications.
How should we prepare? Can any digital devices save the day? Cellular phones sound like a tempting option for communicating during a major disaster. So does the new wireless Palm VII. But cell phones and the Internet aren't stand-alone devices. They won't do much good if the global power grid goes kaput.
This week on Fresh Gear we review the En-R-Pak Solar Generator, an environmentally friendly way to generate portable power in the absence of an electrical grid. This may be good for a brief foray in the woods, but what happens when Y2K hits and there's no sun in sight? Besides, a fully charged battery provides only 450 watt-hours of electricity-- or about enough to use two 45-watt light bulbs for five hours. Not the tool I'd like to have for a long-term disaster.
If I let every warning created by the news media and general masses run my life, I'd never leave home. But that doesn't mean I'm going to close my eyes to potential problems, and neither should you.
My humble Y2K checklist
My advice to others? Be cautious, be prepared, but don't work yourself into a frenzy.
To be safe, I plan to:
- Check websites of my computer maker (and the manufacturer of major appliances) to learn about potential Y2K-compliance problems
- Back up all important files
- Print copies of all financial records on my hard drive
- Keep accurate records of all financial transactions and bill payments
- Have some extra cash on hand, in case of ATM failures
- Stock basic disaster supplies, including nonperishable food, bottled water, flashlights, and a portable radio-- all the stuff I keep around anyway, in case of the next great California quake
If you're still in a panic, the US government has been kind enough to set up a toll-free number with recorded Y2K information and updates. Dial 1-888-USA-4-Y2K, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
I'm not going to bother. In fact, maybe I'll even board a plane on Decemeber 31, 1999. Or maybe I won't. What about you? Let me know your thoughts on Y2K below.