Regional Council Holds Y2K Readiness and Coordination Exercise

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) supervised a regional Year 2000 exercise Wednesday that was designed to test numerous worst-case scenarios for its partners in state, local, federal, utility and transportation agencies.

The scenarios tested the participants' ability to communicate and assist one another in a Year 2000-related crisis. In Alexandria, Va., alone, participants responded to 131 incidents during the six-hour exercise.

"We had to respond to a [simulated] helicopter crash on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, power outages, looting, a hostage situation...in addition to mutual aid agreements we had with other areas," said assistant city manager Angelita Plemmer. "It was a very busy day, but it was great."

Plemmer said the city also took the opportunity to test individual agency contingencies, including plans for payroll, telecommunications and transportation. "We prepared for any and every possibility," she said.

COG used the exercise to define its possible role as a regional Year 2000 communications center when the Year 2000 date change occurs in reality. "We were testing the concept of having a regional center itself for Dec. 31," said a COG spokeswoman.

Overall, information and resources were shared effectively, allowing research and solutions to be formed more quickly than if COG had not been involved, the COG spokeswoman said.

Sonny Segal, chief of the Year 2000 project office in Montgomery County, Md., called the exercise "very worthwhile" and said it was effective for coordinating responses among the regional partners and letting the public know about those partnerships.

"The challenge was getting notice out to the public about coordinating a response in the region, and we achieved that through the simulation," Segal said. "It also helped to recognize the strengths and any weaknesses at the procedural level. COG is one of the best central locations where many regional jurisdictions are members."

A detailed report about Wednesday's exercise and COG's role in Year 2000 coordination is being prepared and should be released in mid-October. Plemmer said COG's role in the region's Year 2000 response planning will be better defined after that report is released.

Government participants in the exercise were Alexandria, Va.; Arlington County, Va.; Bowie, Md.; College Park, Md.; the District of Columbia; the city of Fairfax and Fairfax County, Va.; Falls Church, Va.; Gaithersburg, Md.; Greenbelt, Md.; Loudoun County, Va.; Montgomery County, Md.; Prince George's County, Md.; Prince William County, Va.; Rockville, Md.; and Takoma Park, Md.

In addition to Bell Atlantic Communications Corp., the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, the Potomac Electric Power Co., Virginia Power, Washington Gas, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority also participated.

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