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  Maryland Declared Virtually Y2K-Ready

By Raja Mishra
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 18, 1999; Page B4

Maryland state government is well protected against Y2K computer problems, Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) said yesterday, but is concerned enough about citizen and business response to the new millennium to prepare for power outages, mass bank withdrawals and even too much celebrating.

"We do not anticipate any major problems. We will, however, be prepared for the very worst," Glendening said at a news conference, adding that the advent of the new year should be treated "as if we knew there were a big snowstorm coming."

Doctors, law enforcement agencies and the National Guard will be put on alert, Glendening said, but he promised that "no matter what the situation, the public will have access to medical service, to food and to other essentials."

So far, 99 percent of the state's critical-function computers have been examined, Glendening said. Almost all state agencies found potential troubles, but corrections have been made to 88 percent of the critical systems, such as those at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, prisons and welfare offices.

The state's five mainframe computer centers, which form the backbone of Maryland's information network, have been fixed; 85 percent of its 186 mini-computers, a step up from personal computers, are Y2K-compliant; and 74 percent of the state's 66,000 personal computers are ready. Units not ready by October will be thrown out and replaced. The entire effort is expected to cost $120 million.

Glendening said he has canceled New Year's vacation plans to be on hand should trouble develop. At the news conference at the State Highway Administration in Hanover, the governor was flanked by heads of the state police and National Guard.

"We will be ready for the most extraordinary circumstance, including a power outage in the Midwest that could affect us here and political or religious acts of violence," said David B. Mitchell, the Maryland State Police superintendent.

The state National Guard will be ready to provide a backup communications system, offer shelter and restore order, said Lt. Gen. James F. Fretterd, the state's ranking reserve officer. Preparing the state's reservists is a recent development, spurred by plans by New York Gov. George E. Pataki (R) to deal with the millions of people expected to descend on New York City to celebrate the millennium.

"We're seeing, more and more, states prepare their National Guard," said Ann K. Coffou, vice president for Y2K services for the Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Mass., which is helping thousands of businesses cope with the millennium glitch. "What they have to make sure of is that the reserve personnel are not critical to some private business."

Representatives of the state's banking and health care industries joined Glendening yesterday to offer reassurances.

"The public's deposits are safe and will be available when the public needs it," said John Bowers, of the Maryland Bankers Association.

Catherine Crowley, a vice president with Maryland Hospital and Health Systems, said two-thirds of Maryland's hospitals have made 80 percent of their computers Y2K-compliant. She said hospitals will have maximum staffing levels during New Year's week.

The Y2K glitch occurs when a computer, because of an old design quirk, is unable to distinguish the year 2000 from the year 1900. For example, before they were fixed, the computers that run Maryland's home detention system were set to jump back to 1900, when there were no such detainees, effectively freeing them. Similarly, police Breathalyzer tests would have marked alcohol tests in 2000 as taking place in 1900, making them invalid in court.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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