Do YOU remember the worldwide Millennium Bug Scare? Well here’s what the local newspapers had to say as the year 2000 approached…
IF you’re worried about the Millennium Bug ruining this year’s celebrations, then fear not! Contrary to beliefs and rumours, key services such as the police, ambulance and lifeboat will be running with no expected problems as the New Year rolls in.
The police service have covered every angle to make sure that there will be no delay in assisting the public on New Year’s Eve. All police leave has been cancelled over the festive period to ensure that extra staff are on call.
The police are confident that there will be no problems concerning their communication systems. All of their vehicles and equipment have been thoroughly tested to make sure that the Millennium Bug does not strike.
Lincolnshire Police press officer Insp Dick Holmes has revealed that a mock Millennium Night was held in June. He said: “The event was designed to alert us to any problems which may occur on the night. As the clock struck midnight, there were no problems, reassuring us that all of our equipment should be in good working order on the real night.
“CCTV cameras should also be free from interference. As the equipment is modern it has already been installed with chips which are resistant to the changeover to the year 2000, so there should be no problems there.”
According to Insp Holmes, communication with the other emergency services as well as the county council and health authority has been an important factor for the police in preparing for the Millennium. Making sure that all services will be able to work efficiently together on the night is fundamental to overcoming problems as a whole.
Insp Holmes also revealed that a full blown exercise, comprising a disaster at a major Millennium function, has been carried out involving all of the services that would be alerted in such a case. The joint response plan was carried out at the beginning of December.
Insp Holmes said: “The exercise proved that there should be no problems with the communication and reactions to an emergency by the services as a whole if such a disaster should occur.”
The lifeboat service has also made essential preparations for Millennium night. A full crew will be on call all night.
If a problem does occur with phones or pagers when trying to contact the crew, an alternative system has also been put into place. As Skegness lifeboat coxswain Mr Paul Martin explains: “Information will be available about where each crew member will be between 8pm on New Year’s Eve and 4am on New Year’s Day and means of collection in an emergency has also been arranged.”
As for the navigation equipment, this has been certified completely Millennium Bug free.
One of the main concerns of the public has also been about the efficiency of ambulances on Millennium night. Ambulance trust PR officer Mr Mike Gillen has said: “The ambulance trust has been working very hard over several months to ensure that communication systems as well as life saving medical equipment are compliant with the change over into the next year.”
It is not just the Millennium bug that the ambulance trust has had to consider, but also the sheer quantity of calls expected on the night. As Mr Gillen has I explained: “In previous years the workload has been four or five times greater on New Year’s Eve, so this year we are expecting it to be even greater.
“The number of staff responding on Millennium night will be doubled as will the amount of vehicles ready to respond on the streets of Lincolnshire.
“It is vital, however, that people think carefully before dialing 999. We are encouraging people through our winter campaign to choose the right remedy, that is to consider contacting your local doctor or talking to your pharmacist before going straight to the emergency services.”
Although extra staff will be on standby, it is a fact that three quarters of emergency calls received every day are not real emergencies.
It is therefore important that only critical or life-threatening calls are dialled on 999. This way the lines can be kept free for real emergencies, perhaps saving lives.
If you are unsure about what to do then you can also call NHS Direct, 24 hours a day, on 0845 4647.
If a real emergency does occur, however, the ambulance trust are confident that there will be no problems with either their response or medical treatment.
Lincolnshire County Council
Lincolnshire County Council began intricately preparing for the millennium back in 1996.
It was at this time that the council hired a Year 2000 Programme Manager. For the past three years Mr Chris Craft has been the driving force behind the plans set out by the council to spread awareness of the Millennium Bug and prepare the county for its journey into the next millennium.
The council is responsible for everything from benefit payments to gritting the roads and so an immense amount of planning has had to take place.
Mr Craft has said that other local authorities in the area have therefore been working together on the project: “Representatives from local authorities from the Humberto the Wash signed the Government’s Pledge 2000 agreement, saying that they would all work together. It is not just Lincolnshire that we have had to consider, but the external factors supporting Lincolnshire as a whole.”
Lincolnshire has in fact been at the forefront of the Millennium preparations, putting the county on the map. Mr Craft said: “The Prime Minister actually made a statement urging organisations in the rest of the UK to be as active in their preparations as those in Lincolnshire.”
The effect of the Millennium Bug on the council’s vast computer system was one of the council’s prime concerns. Mr Craft is however confident that there should be no problems: “A complete audit of the computer systems was carried out in February 1997. The computers which could be prone to the Millennium Bug were replaced. An ongoing work programme has been implemented and I am 99.9 per cent sure that everything will be OK.”
Ensuring that the fire brigade will not experience any problems has also been a key concern for the council.
According Mr Craft, however, thorough inspections of the service have quashed any fears: “The fire brigade has been inspected twice this year by Her Majesty’s Service Inspectorate. The first inspection gave the service an amber award, suggesting that they had everything under control but there was room for improvement. The second inspection, however, carried out two months ago, resulted in the top blue award.”
Despite the extended holiday this year, additional social workers will be on duty throughout the festive period. Mr Craft said: “Unfortunately the there are always more fatalities to register at this time of the year. As births and deaths need to be registered within four days, we will be staying open for as long as it takes.”
The highways and planning department will be fully staffed and working: “It will be business as usual,” said Mr Craft, “As with any other day, if a power failure does occur, then it will not effect highways and planning. If it is bad weather then the gritters will still go out, unless told not to. A failure in communication systems will therefore not affect the work being done.”
Contingency plans have however been made in case of a major power outage. According to Mr Craft, alternative methods are in place: “Highways and Planning have, for example, bought thermometers in case road temperature detectors fail to work.”
Mr Craft is confident that the county should not experience any problems with the change into the year 2000. The only immediate problems that may occur, according to Mr Craft, will be the result of people panicking: “If people stick to their usual patterns over the period, then there will be no problems. Remember that the shops will only be shut for two days and the bank machines will be working. It is only if people panic that shortages may occur.
Mr Craft also added: “The dawn of the new Millennium should be a time of celebration, uniting communities together. Therefore remember members of your community such as the elderly. Knock on a door on New Year’s Day to make sure they are OK. Try and make your local area a nice place to live.”
ONE of the greatest concerns about the Millennium Bug has been the possible effects it may have on hospitals during the holiday period.
Fears about the highly technological equipment used in hospitals failing to work on Millennium night, can it seems be disregarded. According to Mr Jim Moss, Public Relations Manager at Pilgrim Hospital, every possible preparation has been made to ensure that it will be business as usual at the hospital during the celebrations. Mr Moss said: “Over the past 18 months, around 4000 pieces of electronic medical equipment have been checked at the hospital. Every piece of equipment should therefore be compliant with the time change.”
The hospital has also had to consider the possibility of there being some disruption with the major utility providers. As Mr Moss said: “We have contacted the water, gas and electricity providers who have assured us that there should be no cause for concern. We have however made contingency plans to cover any other possible outcome.”
As with all of the other emergency services, the hospital has prepared itself for an increased demand for treatment. Staff levels have therefore been planned accordingly.
Mr Moss said: “An immense amount of time and effort has gone into the preparation for Millennium night. Rotas have been planned to ensure that extra staff will be working in the casualty departments at both Skegness and Boston.”
The director of nursing, Miss Sarah Skelton, has confirmed that Louth Hospital have also been making similar plans. Miss Skelton said: “As with the other hospitals, all of the equipment has been checked and additional staff will be on duty. Adequate plans have been made to ensure that everything should run smoothly over the Millennium.”
Plans have also been set in place for dealing with any higher than expected demand whether the cause be bad weather, high levels of illness or the effect of the millennium celebrations.
In order to help hospital staff work as efficiently as possible, it is however important to help reduce non-emergency admissions. This way there will be no delay in giving treatment to those who really need it.
The health authority have been pushing their campaign over recent months to encourage people to visit their GP or talk to their pharmacist before going straight to the hospital. It is especially important this year therefore to help keep the demand for treatment down, by choosing the right remedy for more minor health problems.
“We are ready to fight the Bug” – East Lindsey District Council
THE chairman of East Lindsey District Council, Coun Fiona Martin, has given an assurance that the council is ready for any millennium-related problems over the holiday.
She said: “Councillors and officers within East Lindsey have worked hard over the year to ensure that the services we provide for our residents are protected from Year 2000 technological implications.
“As a result of our preparations the Government Office for the East Midlands has declared us as having the official Blue status for millennium compliance.
“We now feel that we have the ability to overcome any potential millennium related problems that might arise during the holiday period.
The out-of-hours number for East Lindsey throughout the holiday period is 01507 601111.