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For the week of Dec. 15, 1999 through Dec. 21, 1999

Blaine County ready for potential Y2K emergencies

Commentary by MARY ANN MIX

Okay, so it's a little after midnight on Jan. 1, 2000. The outside temperature is minus 12 degrees when suddenly the power is interrupted. No big deal, it will probably come back on in a few minutes. It has to—Idaho Power Company has assured us that their system is Y2K compliant. And, it probably is. However, no amount of assurances can control a random power outage at any time of the year, at any time of the day or night. So what should we do?

The Blaine County Y2K Task Force has been working on this emergency scenario for the past year, and all potential emergencies that could develop as a result of fire, flood, avalanche, earthquake, etc. Although we are confident that the imagined Y2K scenario will not develop, the following information is provided to give our community an outline as to how to proceed in the event of an emergency scenario.

The county will first assess the situation and through consultation with the utilities, the state of Idaho Bureau of Disaster Services (BDS) and local law enforcement will determine if it is appropriate to declare an emergency. If an emergency is declared, the American Red Cross will be contacted and will set up shelters at the Hemingway School in Ketchum, the Hailey Elementary School in Hailey, the National Guard Armory in Hailey and the Carey School.

Thanks to the efforts of the Friedman Memorial Airport, self-contained fuel storage tanks and military surplus generators have been acquired, retrofitted and are ready to provide lights and minimal heat at these shelter locations.

Once the shelters are staffed by the Red Cross (this process usually takes up to three hours from notification), admittance to them will be somewhat selective with the elderly and those vulnerable persons with medical needs admitted first.

It is important to note that to ensure your own comfort, you should bring bedding to the shelter. A limited number of cots and blankets will be available. The Red Cross will also provide food and water, but you will need to bring your own medical items and personal toiletries.

If you have indoor pets that may be at risk, the Animal Shelter of Wood River Valley will care for them only if you bring pet food and a certificate of immunizations.

The Wood River Medical Center will be available for medical emergencies; and the local ambulance service and fire districts are also prepared and have been working on their own contingency plans to ensure a smooth transition.

If you plan to come to a shelter, make sure your home is secured during this time. Run an outside hose with a trickle of water to prevent freeze ups; turn off any auxiliary power such as generators that may have been hooked up (when the power comes back on, this generator could start a fire); and keep the thermostat at a minimal setting.

If you plan to stay at home, make certain that you do not use any equipment indoors that could start a fire, such as a barbeque grill, torches, welding equipment, etc.

If you have been following the emergency preparedness guidelines that have been published in the local papers, or have picked up the Y2K brochure available throughout the valley at the grocery stores, then you no doubt will have on hand the minimal supplies to keep you and your family comfortable for at least three days. The brochure was prepared by the Blaine County Y2K Task Force, state and federal officials, the College of Southern Idaho and the Red Cross.

Remember, these suggestions are applicable for any type of emergency scenario in Blaine County.

We wish you and your loved ones a safe and joyous holiday season.

Mary Ann Mix is chairperson of the Blaine County Commission


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