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City Says Y2K Should Be a Breeze
But Watch Out for New Year's Eve
By Alex Nicole Leviton
After all the hype about Y2K, you'd think the city would be fretting over the computer chaos that might be unleashed at 12:01 on Jan. 1, 2000.
But with the biggest New Year's Eve celebration in a thousand years approaching, the city's chief concern is not power failures or water shortages caused by the bug. It's the mix of booze and partying -- and the buggy behavior that's likely to occur in "I'm wacky and proud" San Francisco.
For this reason, the city's emergency workers have adopted a policy of "zero tolerance for idiotic behavior," says Lucien Canton, director of the Mayor's Office of Emergency Services. (And that means you too, Noe Valleyans!)
As for Y2K, Canton confidently states, "We are not expecting any disasters whatsoever." However, just in case, his department has developed citywide contingency plans for all doomsday scenarios.
Canton assures us that every conceivable Y2K glitch has been tested and retested. Worried about hospitals or police stations losing power? All critical facilities have emergency generators that will kick in immediately. How about power outages causing Muni to break down? Between 8:30 and 9 p.m. on Dec. 31, Muni will switch over to diesel buses. (This also makes sense in light of New Year's revelry: the diesel buses are easier to reroute and maneuver in a crowd.)
What about crowd control downtown? Virtually all emergency service personnel-- including police officers, firefighters, Office of Emergency Services (OES) employees, and many volunteers -- will be on duty that night, Canton says.
Still, a good way to usher in the millennium is to stay home and sip champagne in the comfort of your own living room. Then you can watch all those Y2K fears fizzle out on TV.
We All Have a Date with the Big One
In addition, there are other precautions residents can take for Y2K -- or for any disaster, for that matter.
"Y2K is just like any other event that might be coming at you, like an earthquake," Canton says. "The only difference is, we get to prepare for this one."
He points out that the city has learned many valuable lessons in the 10 years since the Loma Prieta Earthquake. One is that if a disaster happens, emergency services might be spread extremely thin.
So each family should take steps to prepare themselves. First, residents should put together an earthquake kit and make sure it's within easy reach. Your kit should contain water and food for three days, enough prescription medicine to last seven days, first-aid supplies, shoes and clothing, a portable radio, a flashlight, and extra batteries.
Although the authorities are confident Y2K will not cause major problems, it never hurts to develop a personal "contingency plan." Talk to your Noe Valley friends and neighbors about starting a block group. Trade phone numbers and survival strategies.
Another big lesson from Oct. 17, 1989, is that San Francisco must be ready and willing to use citizen volunteers. "The public can carry a tremendous load for you," Canton says.
Noe Valley NERT Is Alive and Alert
The members of the public who carry much of that load are the volunteers who make up the city's Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT). NERT volunteers receive extensive training from the San Francisco Fire Department. They learn how to, among other things, check for building damage, put out fires, and treat minor injuries.
Thankfully, Maxine Fasulis, coordinator for the Noe Valley NERT, has "pages" of Noe Valley residents who have taken the training. During an emergency, the local NERT command center will be at James Lick Middle School on 25th Street between Noe and Castro streets. You'll know NERT members by their yellow hard hats and orange vests, she says.
When and if -- well, when -- a disaster strikes San Francisco, Fasulis says, "We know there is going to be a massive turnout of volunteers. NERT is a way to harness that energy."
When asked what's the best advice she could give her neighbors about disaster preparedness, Fasulis answers, "Take the NERT training." Anyone can take the six-week course. It's free, and you'll come away with expert knowledge in six main areas: Earthquake Awareness, Disaster Skills, Disaster Medicine, Light Search and Rescue, Team Organization, and Hands-On Training.
To find out about joining the Noe Valley group, contact Fasulis at 641-5536. She says if enough people are interested, she'll help schedule a training this spring.
Meanwhile, go next door and exchange numbers with your neighbor. And be sure to wish them a happy (and not too wild) New Year's celebration.
Zeroing In on the Year 2000
m You can examine the city's Y2K status, find nonemergency phone numbers, and read how to prepare yourself for Y2K at www.ci.sf.ca.us. Click on "Year 2000 Information."
m For information about San Francisco's Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams (NERTs), or if you'd like to inquire about training for your business or community organization, call 558-3456. Or peruse the course outline at www.slip.net/~nertsffd. If you want the scoop on the Noe Valley NERT, call Maxine Fasulis at 641-5536.
m If you'd like to volunteer to be a lookout at the Millennium Celebration, call the Mayor's Office of Emergency Services at 558-2703.