Act normally but don't call 999 -- Y2K latest

Concern for telephone emergency network over the new millennium

The government is advising people to "think twice" before dialling 999 over the millennium to "ease pressure" on the telephone system.

The advice forms part of a pamphlet entitled 'What Everyone should know about the millennium bug'. Launched Monday by government bug-busters Action 2000 and Leader of the House of Commons Margaret Beckett, the pamphlet -- which will be delivered to every home in the country -- is intended to explode the myths surrounding the bug and explain how to make best use of services over the millennium period.

The government is advising people to use local numbers for doctors, health services and concerns over electricity and gas. "Take action yourself, make a note of your own doctor's number, phone local numbers if you are worried about electricity or gas," said Action 2000 managing director Gwynneth Flower in a call to "personalise" bug action.

According to the government, three-quarters of 999 calls are not emergencies and Beckett urged people to "gear it [calling 999] to what they need rather than the first thing that comes into their heads". Mrs Beckett claimed the telephone network "has been preparing to cope with more than the normal load" over the millennium and reassured the public that they could have the access they need.

According to Beckett the biggest threat of disruption comes from people acting abnormally. "If people behave as if there was going to be disruption -- hoarding food and cash -- there could be shortages," she warned. Seeking to reassure the public, Beckett claimed people have nothing to fear from the bug. "The pamphlet is intended to reassure people that the UK is well prepared and there is no need whatsoever to take special action," she said.

Despite this, Flower warned against bug complacency. "The bug is a very real threat and would have caused major disruption if the country had not addressed it in the right way," she said.