Even church bells are Y2K risk

BY SUSAN KIM | WASHINGTON | August 13, 1999

WASHINGTON (Aug. 13, 1999) -- While others concerned about Y2K

compliance talk about computers, Kevin Clemens tells churches to

check their bells.

"I know a church that has an electronic carrilon -- a set of bells --

and it's programmed to ring a certain number of times per day, on

certain days of the calendar year. They had to send it back to the

vendor to make it Y2K compliant," he said.

Clemens, who is dean of the American Guild of Organists, added that

pipe organs won't be affected by the Y2K bug. But churches may want

to check electronic organs with microchips -- especially those more

than five years old.

And Clemens isn't the only one checking into the lesser-known side of

Y2K compliance.

Carter Echols, canon missioner at Washington, DC's renowned National

Cathedral, after being assured the computer system was compliant,

still had to check the building's sprinkler system, elevators, locks,

and the direct deposit payroll for hundreds of employees in the

cathedral and its affiliated schools.

The Mormon Temple, a national attraction for tourists in Kensington,

Md., checked the electrical systems which operate its annual Festival

of Lights. "We won't have to interrupt the Festival of Lights for Y2K

- unless there is a wider spread power outage," said Director David


But the temple will forgo its normal schedule by closing December 30

through January 2. That's not being alarmist, just "cautious," said


Abigail Smith, press officer for the President's Council on Y2K,

calls it "common sense."

"A lot of Y2K response is just plain common sense -- even if there

are loud voices saying other messages," she said.

But even a non-alarmist, 100-page President's Council report cites

some Y2K-affected items that may surprise some people - even ones

with common sense. "Older-model VCRs will still work, but people may

have trouble programming them. And older camcorders and fax machines

will still work as well -- but the date headers could be wrong," said


So could Global Positioning Systems (GPS) made before 1994. GPS

systems are not only used to navigate airplanes and boats but also

conceivably by missionaries finding their way through the woods

halfway across the globe.

The Y2K bug could make missionaries and volunteer teams overseas

vulnerable to communication interruptions, said Joe Moran, who trains

volunteer teams for the Honduras, among other places.

"I'm not sure how Y2K-sound the Honduran electrical supply service

is," he said. "I do know that, after the hurricane last fall, it

wasn't long before the hydroelectric plant in Lake Yojoa burned, and

there were blackouts all over the country. At one point, the entire

country was simultaneously out of electricity."

As a precaution, the Christian Commission for Development has

purchased gas-powered generators for the work sites where U.S. teams

are helping rural villagers reconstruct their homes. That means the

teams ought to be able to communicate via two-way radios -- "provided

gasoline availability is not affected there due to Y2K problems,"

said Moran.

Similarly, a Southern Baptist task force has cautioned its overseas

missionaries that other countries may have no contingency plans for

Y2K-related failures in telecommunications, financial systems, air

transportation, the manufacturing supply chain, and oil supplies.

Most experts believe that the U.S. is far better prepared for Y2K

than the rest of the world and will experience fewer serious


But here in the U.S., people are more likely to be vulnerable in the

face of what has become a huge market for Y2K supplies, food,

survival kits, and other trendy accessories.

"There are many things to be wary of as people try to make a profit

or sensationalize Y2K," said Elizabeth Miller, director for the

National Association of State Information Resource Executives. "Y2K

is a manmade problem that could be exacerbated by man."

Community awareness and open conversations can avert would-be fraud,

she added, by ensuring everyone has access to the facts. Churches and

other community organizations are being advised to check on

particularly vulnerable people, including the elderly and those who

live alone.

And at least one organization is actively advocating for citizens

affected by the Y2K bug. The Cassandra Project, a nonprofit focusing

on Y2K public health and safety issues, has recently put forward, at

the state level, the Citizens Y2K Financial Protection Act, a bill

that would limit or place a moratorium on foreclosures,

repossessions, evictions, and utility shutoffs over the century date


Also in draft is the Citizens Y2K Healthcare Assurance Act, which

would guarantee medical care should Medicaid, Medicare, or private

medical insurance programs experience financial or records problems.

The Citizens Y2K Individual and Community Support Act, another

proposed bill, which would require cities and towns to provide a

clearinghouse for Y2K preparedness activities and information, and

allow individuals to deduct a portion of preparing their homes as

well as the cost of attending Y2K preparedness education seminars, as

well as first aid and CPR classes.

It would also allow neighborhood groups to deduct the cost of

printing, advertising, and sponsoring local Y2K preparedness

education seminars.

In addition to community-based meetings and conversations, some

faith-based organizations are providing Y2K information, including

Church World Service and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. The

Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's Domestic Disaster Response

has comprehensive and regularly updated Y2K information and

recommendations on its Web site.

Posted August 13, 1999

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