No Room for Mistakes in Las Vegas

With Barbra Streisand ringing in the New Year in Las Vegas along with thousands of other glitterati, the city of Las Vegas isn't taking any chances with Year 2000 glitches.

The city started planning for the occasion long ago, forming a committee that has met every other week for years to make sure the Las Vegas rollover goes as smoothly as Barbra's well-honed act.

"Just like New York, the Las Vegas strip is a big destination for celebrants," said Tom Thompson, the city's quality assurance administrator. "The big hotels don't want any problems."

So the city coordinated with Clark County, the police and the National Guard to ensure that order is maintained.

"If something happens, it's going to be sociological rather than technological," Thompson said. "We won't see Y2K problems because of computers. It's just not going to happen."

To be ready for the worst, the city recently rehearsed with what Thompson called "tabletop exercises." Decision-makers who will staff the city's emergency center gathered there and were given with mock scenarios to handle, such as "a terrorist has just blown up something" and "the power is out in City Hall," he said. Then, 10 minutes later, another crisis would happen.

At 4 p.m. on the 31st, city officials will reconvene at that emergency center for the real thing. Only key people will be allowed in, no reporters. Inside they'll be taking calls and making the decisions they practiced for. They'll be watching television and listening to the radio, trying to anticipate what might happen in Vegas.

Outside the city will be playing it safe.

The entire police department will work the weekend in 12-hour shifts -- no one got the weekend off. Nursery facilities will be available to accommodate officers with families whom the intensive schedule may have inconvenienced.

For the night of Dec. 31, there won't be any of free roaming from hotel to hotel that's common in Vegas. Hotel guests will be required to prove they have a reason to be in each hotel before being allowed to enter.

The information technology director and his Y2K project team will be working from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m., mainly to field calls from worried residents. At 4 a.m. another team will relieve them and will stay on until 4 p.m. New Year's Day.

Then people in each department will test all programs again.

"We've tested oodles of time, but we're going to do it anyway," Thompson said. "We'll pretend like we're open for business."

Fearing viruses rumored to be unleashed on or around New Year's, Thompson said every city employee has been forbidden to use the Internet except for business.

"We're trying to anticipate everything," he said. "That's how you make something a success."

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