Loudoun County officials bought a hand-crank gas pump and eight extra generators in case a computer glitch causes the power to go out on New Year's Eve.
Loudoun Hospital will have about 30 extra staff members, including engineers and information technology experts, at the Lansdowne campus from 11 p.m. Dec. 31 until 1 a.m. Jan. 1.
And the Leesburg jail now holds enough canned meat, cereal and other supplies for 1,200 meals, just in case.
Loudoun and Fauquier officials--like other local officials in the Washington area--say they anticipate no major problems at the turn of the century. But they say that if something goes wrong, they'll be ready.
"We feel we're very well prepared," said Loudoun Assistant County Administrator Robert Griffin. "If there are problems, it's a matter of people using their common sense."
Over the last two years, Fauquier has spent more than a half-million dollars updating computer systems that run everything from its police dispatch system to library book checkouts, said Roy Burrow, director of Fauquier County's information resources.
Loudoun officials said they began upgrading the county's computer systems in the summer of 1997 at a cost of about $475,000. The most extensive testing--which will continue through next week--has been done at the computer dispatch center used by firefighters and police to handle emergency calls.
Officials said that although they are prepared to handle computer problems, they are more concerned about people hoarding food or money and out-of-control parties.
"My greatest concern is public panic," said Loudoun Sheriff's Chief Deputy John Patton. "I know a lot of people who are distrusting of the government. Are they going to make a run on the bank? Are they going to make a run on the supermarket?"
The Sheriff's Office is planning to have 50 deputies on duty each day from Dec. 27 through the first week of the new year, compared with a typical staff of 15, and about 80 each night, up from about 20. In addition, extra command staff and 911 operators will be at work. If increased staffing is extended through Jan. 8, the total overtime cost would be about $200,000, sheriff's officials said.
In addition, extra plastic flex handcuffs and flares have been ordered, and the department has trained 23 deputies as part of a civil disturbance unit. A county bus has been reserved as a holding tank for suspects brought to the Leesburg jail in case the number of people overwhelms the antiquated facility in the historic downtown.
Fauquier County plans to spend about $11,000 in overtime to have about 30 employees, including career firefighters, computer technicians and engineers working overnight on New Year's Eve. Fauquier County sheriff officials said they will have about a dozen additional officers on duty New Year's Eve.
At Fauquier's hospital, officials said they have been dealing with Y2K readiness for the last three years, including installing a $3 million computer system for patient records, billing and payroll.
"We've checked everything from MRI machines to X-ray equipment and ventilators," said Peter Fakoury, the hospital's spokesman. "We're ready."
Loudoun Hospital Center spent $450,000 upgrading software that controls its patient accounts, billing and purchasing records, spokeswoman Linda Roberts said. If the electricity fails, the hospital has generators that will kick in.
While some of the preparations may seem excessive, Griffin said, it is crucial for local governments to be prepared because if something does go wrong, neighboring jurisdictions probably will be in the same fix and won't be able spare supplies or manpower.
"Usually when you have a disaster, there's a ring around where it hits, and you can go beyond it to get help," Griffin said. "This could be the whole country that's affected."