Half of nation's 911 centers are Y2K-ready

Only 50 percent of the nation's 911 centers are prepared to handle the millennium date change, according to the Clinton administration's final Year 2000 report released Wednesday.

Although 99 percent of the federal government's mission-critical computer systems are ready, local and state governments and small businesses are still at risk, said John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion.

As of Oct. 1, survey results from more than 2,700 911 call centers operated by local governments revealed that only 50 percent of the centers were Year 2000-compliant. That means as the new year turns, computers in those centers could interpret the year 2000 as 1900 because of systems that rely on a two-digit date field to identify a year.

Because the council's surveys are confidential, Koskinen would not discuss which 911 centers are in trouble.

The problem lies with the centers' automation systems, which automatically dispatch emergency response teams to a particular area, Koskinen said. Most of the systems have manual backups that may cause delays in emergency response, he said.

Most centers expect to complete their work before the end of the year, he said. "Those who are not done are obviously cutting it very close," he said.

Koskinen stressed the need for the government, businesses and individuals to continue testing their systems and developing contingency plans.

"It is inevitable that there will be glitches in those systems even though they were tested and appear to be operating," he said.

Meanwhile, of the more than 6,000 mission-critical systems in the federal government, only 40 remain to be brought to compliance, Koskinen said. Most of those systems are in the Defense Department, which has sufficient backup and contingency plans for those systems, he said.

"We are confident, subject to glitches, that the basic work of the federal government is done," he said.

Koskinen's report is the 11th in a series of updates on the federal government's progress in fixing Year 2000 problems. The Office of Management and Budget released the first quarterly report February 1997.

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