Action 2000 worried over bug...

With at least one fire brigade, four police forces and nine percent of NHS services at "severe risk" of disruption, Action 2000 chairman Don Cruickshank was today forced to admit he is "worried" that not enough has been done to combat the bug.Representatives from the police and fire services played down public safety fears at today's conference which divided danger zones into colour co-ordinated bands -- red for severe risk, amber for some risk, blue for no risk.

With at least one fire brigade, four police forces and nine percent of NHS services at "severe risk" of disruption, Action 2000 chairman Don Cruickshank was today forced to admit he is "worried" that not enough has been done to combat the bug.

Representatives from the police and fire services played down public safety fears at today's conference which divided danger zones into colour co-ordinated bands -- red for severe risk, amber for some risk, blue for no risk. By Summer those falling into the red zone will be publicly named and shamed in July said Cruickshank.

Keith Phillips, HM Inspector of fire services and David Gilbertson, Assistant Inspector of Constabulary insisted police and fire services would be fully operational over the millennium period despite Action 2000's statistics. A spokesman for the fire service confirmed that fire stations would operate even if IT systems failed.

Despite the assurances, 10 fire brigades and 24 police stations have not yet been visited by independent assessors. Home Office minister for millennium issues George Howarth explained what will happen to laggards: "If a force or brigade is assessed as ‘red', an action plan must be produced and they will be re-inspected before July. It is vital that we ensure that all systems will be ready in the soonest possible time."

Alasdair Liddell, beleagured NHS executive director of planning, was unwilling to discuss which parts of the organisation were at "severe risk", claiming it "was hard to pinpoint any particular area." Liddell promised the focus of resources was on systems that affect patient care. Liddell left the press conference before ZDNet UK News had a chance to discuss the issue.

Asked if there would be deaths as a result of the bug Cruickshank said: "I can't answer questions like that. Even the doctors can't answer questions like that."

Representatives of key services stressed that 'Red zone' organisations would be improved by summer, with most suggesting full millennium compliance by autumn.

The Chairman of the transport industry steering group, David Rolands, had an upbeat message about trains, planes and roads: "Traffic lights will work," he said, and "no plane will fly unless it is safe".

Take me to the Year 2000 Special.