Canada: Rewards Reaped for Y2K Planning : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


OTTAWA (CP) -- When the twin World Trade Center towers came down in lower Manhattan, the Royal Bank office in a nearby skyscraper was evacuated in case it was the next to collapse.

Despite the displacement, the downed telephone lines and the general disarray, the 300-400 bank employees were quickly reinstalled at a backup location somewhere in the city.

Business and government analysts say they had already graduated from the perfect boot camp for just such events: Y2K.

It turns out all those preparations for the anti-climactic millennium bug are paying off in spades in the post-Sept. 11 climate.

"Y2K was the dry run," said Judi Levita, spokesperson for the Royal Bank.

"We did have some staff in New York .. and we were able to have all of our people evacuated and working in an alternate space practically immediately."

The Y2K concern first surfaced about four years ago, when word of a programming glitch that would put major computer networks and digital equipment on the fritz threw industry and government into fix-it mode.

All computers had been pre-programmed to recognize only the last two digits of any year. Federal ministers and business leaders urged the public to update their computers to make sure they could recognize the date 2000.

Managers who were previously clueless about technology became intimately familiar with their networks, and made sure they had a handle on the level of readiness of their suppliers too.

Contingency planning became a widely accepted concept ---- companies needed backup plans in case electricity went out, water didn't flow or telephones went dead.

In New York on Sept. 11, some of those worst-case scenarios happened.

"Lower Manhattan was certainly in a Y2K scenario," said Paul Rummell, Canada's former chief information officer and an adviser to the U.S. government on technology issues.

"They fell back on all their backup plans. They were facing a lot of the scenarios that we thought of, shortages of diesel fuel and that sort of thing."

Rummell notes that since the tragedy, some companies have been revisiting those contingency plans. They're considering, for example, moving backup offices further away -- from New Jersey to the U.S. heartland, and re-considering the push that had been on to centralize operations.

Governments around the world spent millions correcting their computer systems and securing plans to protect critical infrastructure.

In this country, Emergency Preparedness Canada, Treasury Board and other departments put together a detailed inventory of all essential services from gas pipelines to health-care systems.

Ottawa only controls 10 per cent of that infrastructure, so it had to co-ordinate with other levels of government to put proper emergency plans were in place.

Once the Y2K threat passed, the government created a task force to further examine critical infrastructure protection.

Last February, Ottawa announced it would fold the group into a new agency called the Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness, located with the Defence Department, to look at worst-case scenarios ranging from cyber-attacks to natural disaster.

"This 'all hazards' approach is, I believe, unique to Canada," Margaret Purdy, associate deputy minister of Defence told an August conference in Australia.

"It recognizes that widely varying events can generate the same impact on our critical infrastructure. The flow of electricity can be disrupted by a terrorist bomb, a tornado or a malicious hacking attack."

By contrast, the information technology community in the United States is deploring the fact that Washington simply disbanded its Y2K offices, ending the work of its Y2K czar John Koskinen.

Koskinen recently told Computer World magazine that renewing the links government developed with industries and the states is a key need in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

"I don't think there is any way to deal with determining the nature of the threat, protecting against it and having appropriate mechanisms in place without an effective renewal of those partnerships or networks across the economy," he said.

-- Rachel Gibson (, October 10, 2001


I am sure glad y2k preps benefited somebody.

-- Uncle Fred (, October 11, 2001.

Why is it that I get the sense that Canada is better prepared for such disasters as we are?

-- QMan (, October 11, 2001.

I like the all hazards approach; why can't we adopt something similar in this country?

-- Nancy7 (, October 11, 2001.

Here in the US, we have been in denial that bad things cannot happen here. People have come out of their life-long sleep and are finding ways to take care of themselves. While I was preparing for Y2K, those sleepers around me laughed at my concern and diligence. Now they are asking me what can they do to protect their family. Gun and ammo sales have increased, food and water are flying off the shelves, and camping gear sales have increased. This is a good thing.

-- (, October 11, 2001.

On the teevee news a couple of days ago, reporters were interviewing people in Costco who were stocking up on basics, camping supplies, etc. There was a big rush on bottled water and most people interviewed were concerned about municipal water systems. The attitude by the talking heads on teevee was opposite what it was back in pre-Y2K days. This time they sounded like they approved of people "preparing".

The times have certainly changed . . .

-- Margaret J (, October 11, 2001.

That's because now there is a REAL threat, not the nonsense only the paranoid believed in before the rollover

-- Y2K Pro (, October 11, 2001.

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