It's 100 days to Y2K

With the year 2000 only 100 days away, the U.S. Senate outlines its remaining Y2K bug concerns.

Don't look now, but the year 2000 -- D-Day for the Y2K bug -- is only 100 days away. Is the United States on track?

On Wednesday, Senate members addressed that question. A special Y2K committee released its final Y2K status report, based on more than 30 hearings and testimony from some 150 witnesses.

Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, told reporters that even though he thinks there will be some isolated problems, "in all likelihood they will not be crippling and can be handled in a relatively short period of time. Nonetheless ... there is still work to be done. We cannot be complacent."

Reality check
Bennett thinks that what problems do occur will crop up in specific places. For starters, small businesses: The report finds roughly 1.4 million small business owners do not plan to take any Y2K action.

Utilities are also raising some Capitol eyebrows. The report says major companies are up to speed on Y2K fixes and a nationwide blackout is not likely. But again, smaller utility companies give the Senate reason for pause. Only 25 percent routinely disclose their readiness, so Bennett says it can be difficult to pinpoint the overall picture.

Healthcare is another concern. "There are an average of 8,000 to 10,000 medical devices in each hospital in this country," said Don Meyer, spokesman for the Senate's Special Y2K Committee. Meyer said that rural and inner city hospitals in particular may not have the resources to check all the devices.

But the major fears stem from international developments, Meyer said. "There are a lot of countries that we trade with, that we import oil from, that are not prepared very well for Y2K. We're worried about eventual economic impact from that washing up on our shores," he said.

Bennett: Stockpile information
Still, Sen. Bennett had room to smile Wednesday, even making a small joke about stockpiling.

"If you stockpile anything for Y2K, stockpile information. Find out if your pharmacist, your banker, your employer, is Y2K complaint. It will be of small comfort to you to have the U.S. Senate say the banking system will work if you can't get your money out."

Meanwhile, while the 100-days-to-go mark is a convenient milestone (technically, the U.S. falls in time zones that will be 100 days away on Thursday, but the accepted international date is Wednesday), the Gartner Group says Y2K problems have enough staying power to last into the year 2001.

According to a report published last month, 15 percent of computer failures will occur in 2001, 55 percent will occur next year, and the remaining 25 percent have either already occurred or will before the end of 1999.


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