The Berean Call on Y2K   Back

Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon respond to a reader who questions their take on the Y2K (Millenium Computer Bug) issue.

( Posted here by Arne Herstad)

Question[composite of several]: Your recent article on Y2K and Bible prophecy was a disappointment....I encourage you to revisit the topic for your readers who trust you....You claim that predictions of bare grocery shelves could cause hoarding that will cause shortages...but they can be restocked...little harm done...those who hoarded will be in a position to help others....

--Dave, it's time you got up to speed on this Y2K thing [letter enclosed from Larry Burkett: "At midnight on December 31,1999, the world could face the biggest technological malfunction in history...we as Christians should be prepared to minister to the Year 2000 approaches...providing for their physical and spiritual needs.". One thing is certain--when government, banks, companies tell us everything is under control, that's the only thing they can say....They don't want to cause panic. You said, "Logically, computers have nothing to do with growing wheat or apples or chickens or anything else....". Come on, Dave, small farms are rare, large companies own huge farms and it's all controlled by computers, so is storage and shipping controlled by computers.... -A lot of people are so worried that they'll hoard food...pull their money out of the bank...sell their stocks just to be safe. The panic could outweigh the computer problem. Our economy will be turned upside down and the folks who believed you will be wishing they had stocked up on food, etc. when it was still affordable and available....

I work for a large hospital and they waited way too long to start [on Y2K]! The staff is to tell patients and families, "The hospital's computer department ...will have it fixed and ready by Jan. 2000." WHAT A LIE! -I plead with you not to try to pacify the public with false assurances. We need to panic-yes, panic now while there's still time to prepare. I will pray for you and your ministry.... -By your skepticism you may cost lives and countless opportunities for the Body of Christ to minister to the community of unsaved, if Y2K should turn out even close to possible worst-case scenarios.

Answer: These comments are excerpted from just some of the letters we've received. They couldn't be answered individually so I've written a book (Y2K - A Reasoned Response to Mass Hysteria) scheduled to come off the press February 15, 1999, God willing. My real concern is for the panic that could be incited by what is being said and written about Y2K. This problem has been irresponsibly and wildly exaggerated in a manner that could only excite uncertainty and concern. Sadly, Christian leaders, though they mean well, have been doing most of the alarm-sounding and if panic occurs Christians will take much of the blame. Oh, yes, after painting a terriiying "worst case" scenario, which they say is possible, they say, "But don't panic, keep calm, the worst-case scenario probably won't happen." But they have painted a picture, which, if it did occur would be disastrous. What is the reasonable person to do? We're told, "Hope for the best and prepare for the worst " You couldn't prepare for the worst. So, if everyone prepared even for something halfway between the best and worst, banks would have to shut down and grocery enough cushion to give back to customers all at once even 25 percent of what they have on deposit; nor is there enough food in the supply pipelines to fill demand if customers all started to store up weeks or months of supply. So I agree with the person who pointed out the danger and grave consequences of panic, but I don't agree that we should try to panic people into doing something! Nor should Christians whose trust is in God participate in panic buying and stockpiling.

We can't deal with everything in this small space. Electric power is crucial, so let's take that first. In November 1998, Al Gonzalez, CEO of our local Central Oregon power company, stated in a letter to all customers: "I want to assure you nearly all our computer software is Y2K compliant and when we install new software next year, all of it will be. Furthermore, most of our main transmission/distribution equipment does not rely on computers... [we're] reviewing our entire system to ensure we are in no way vulnerable to any problem stemming from Y2K."

Our local company is part of a larger grid made up of many companies (the largest is the Bonneville Power Administration -BPA) which cooperate together in the Northwest Public Power Association. Its November 1998 Bulletin said, "If you were looking forward to a cataclysmic event on the power system at midnight December 31, 1999, don't hold your breath....From the Oregon coast to the desert of eastern Washington, utilities report they have Y2K programs in place and are intent on making the transition to the new millennium a seamless event." Brian Furumasu of BPA said, "The goal for Y2K at BPA is to make the transifion into and through the year 2000 a nonevent for continuation of power services and business operations... The industry predicted a lot of problems with embedded chips, but they have not materialized." BPA has been working on this for a long time. I personally asked Furumasu what they had found that needed fixing. He said they'd found very little. I then asked, "Did you find anything which, had you not found it, would have shut you down on Jan. 1, 2000?" He said they had found nothing like that; and their many backup systems just wouldn't let it happen.

Quoting the Bulletin again: "Jeff Brune, Y2K project manager at Washington Water Power...said, 'We looked at over 550,000 items and fewer than 3,000 were date sensitive; of those, only 300 required remediation.. none of these would have caused a disruption in service.'" 'We've been aware of Y2K for several years,' [said] Dan Reeves, director of administration and finance at Peninsula Light Company. 'We've managed Y2K in our normal equipment-replacement cycle,' Reeves said. 'We have all of our equipment and software compliant and have come up with nothing Y2K related that is of a critical nature."'

These are typical of power companies all over the world. The power grid is not going to go down. You will have power January 1, 2000. This problem has been grossly exaggerated!

Yes, but they and the banks and businesses and hospitals are all lying in order to prevent panic and so as not to upset customer so some Christian "experts" are telling us. That is not a rational statement. There are negligence laws in every state. Any provider of service (electric power, banking, etc.) that defaults is liable for the damages it causes. The Y2K problem has been known for 25 years, there are plenty of solutions and more being invented almost weekly that cut remediation time to a fraction of what it was. (How about StepWise Solutions of Watermill, NY that zips through "4 million lines of code per hour. The resulting code compiles flilly and cleanly and is ready for testing.") Therefore it would be gross negligence for any company not to be flilly compliant by the year 2000. Furthermore, to lie about their progress would only increase the damages and send the corporate officers to prison. They are not lying!

Any company (bank, utility, manufacturer, supplier, etc.) that is not Y2K compliant is very likely going out of business even before the year 2000 because no one will buy their products. For example, Dallas Semiconductor, one of the world's largest makers of time-keeping chips for embedded applications, sent a letter months ago to all of its suppliers warning them that if they were not Y2K compliant by November 1998 they would be notified that contracts may be terminated, that alternate sources were being identified and would be "put in place as necessary to avoid disruptions in delivery of manufacturing or other needed materials." The business, banking, manufacturing, etc. world is a cutthroat, viciously competitive contest. These companies and their managers didn't get to where they are today by sitting on their hands. They are not going to let anyone get a competitive advantage by lagging on Y2K!

Yes, the problem has been irresponsibly and grossly overstated. I have not found anyone in the electric power industry who, after searching through every computer system and chip they have has found anything that would have shut them down had they not fixed it. I interviewed one of the top computer experts in the counuy who says he is in contact with 7 to 10 information technology managers per week of major corporations (all with annual sales over $500 million) and he has not found one of them who is concerned; they all claim to have Y2K behind them. Nor in the process of going through everything have they (except very rarely) found anything that would have shut any system down. Y2K has been overstated!

Hospitals are not going to take any chances. Hewlett-Packard (HP) is the world's largest manufacturer of acute-care patient-monitoring Systems, of cardio-vascular ultrasound imaging systems and of clinical-information systems for critical care. HP has been Y2K compliant for some time and is making certain that all of its suppliers of parts, etc. are independently certified to be compliant alsc, otherwise it won't buy from them. Its systems in hospitals are Y2K compliant and it provides assistance for its customers to become compliant as well.

Consider Catholic Healthcare West, a network of 40 hospitals headquartered in San Francisco. As of the end of October 1998, engineers had tested 92 percent of its 80,000 pieces of medical equipment and "only nine machines~including a cardiac monitor, a CT scan machine and a blood analyzer shut down." (Los Angeles Times, Nov.23, 1998 or http:/ doc/rArchive/templiemp.9876). That is only .011 percent. This Y2K problem has been exaggerated! Staff will be watching everything like hawks at midnight 12/31/99!

We said in our November article that computers have little to do with producing food. Yes, as some letters said, many involved in raising crops, poultry, beef, hogs, etc. are fully computerized. So they are, but they could continue to function without computers by utilizing a great deal of hands-on labor. If hospitals can do it in emergency, poultry farmers can also. "Next spring [1999], Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach [California] will start drills for hospital employees on how to do their jobs, with or without technology. 'Much of patient care can be provided by personnel. Technology allows us to do our job more efficiently or in a more timelyway; but care in most instances can be provided without the latest and greatest of technology,' says Mary Kay Payne, a vice president in charge of Hoag's millennial project" (Los Angeles Times, Nov.23, 1998, pp. Cl, C6).

We are warned that even if American companies get themselves in good shape foreign countries, especially those in the third world, will not make it and will drag us down with them. Most of.the sophisticated equipment in foreign countries was brought there and is operated by huge multi-national corporations. For example, out of HP's 120,000 employees, 51,000 are in foreign countries.

Tragically, Y2K has become an all-absorbing obsession for many Christians, taking time and effort and funds that the Lord would have us use more wisely in His service. Much more must be said and we said it in the book. Let us all do our best to prevent the panic that is being generated.

                                                                           --The Berean Call                                                                             Back

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