Monday, March 08, 1999

Bunker ready in case of Y2K crisis

Ohio could direct relief operations from site

The Associated Press

        DAYTON — State officials are ready to move government operations into “The Bunker” at year's end — just in case the Y2K computer problem turns serious, the Dayton Daily News reported Sunday.

        Ohio's Emergency Operations Center is in a $13 million concrete structure eight miles northwest of downtown Columbus. Officials plan to start staffing the bunker 12 hours a day on Dec. 29, and 24 hours a day from Dec. 31 until no longer necessary, the Daily News said.

        Should a power plant or water utility fail, relief efforts can be coordinated from 12 feet underground.

        Nobody knows whether essential services will be disrupted Jan. 1, 2000. Predictions about the Y2K bug — the software glitch that could have computer systems confusing next year's “00” as the year 1900 — range from minor hang-ups to major meltdowns.

        The executive director of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency is James Williams, a retired two-star Army National Guard general who has spent 32 years at the agency.

        Mr. Williams is no doomsayer. He just wants the state to be ready.

        “This is not a panic situation,” he said. “If nothing happens, we can go home and watch football.”

        There are no plans to call up the Ohio National Guard, but if there is a crisis, that could be done quickly.

        The operations center is in the basement of a complex that also hous es dispatching facilities for the state departments of Transportation and Natural Resources and the State Highway Patrol.

        There, the agency's 80 employees monitor the state's nuclear reactors, plan emergency drills, update response plans and process federal assistance claims from disaster victims.

        Built in 1994, the bunker has done duty every year since 1995, coordinating flood relief along the Ohio River. It is one of the most sophisticated emergency management centers in the country, officials say.

        The high-security reinforced concrete building is surrounded by a barbed wire fence, and has its own dormitories, water well, food, filtered air supply and power.

        The governor and his Cabinet have a room with a television monitor.


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