Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
November 19, 1999

An Inside Q&A

Y2K repercussions expected to be minimal

by Diana Pounds
As the new year approaches, Insideposed a number of questions to campus experts on Y2K issues. Following are their responses.

Do I need to visit my office or lab on New Year's Day to check for Y2K problems?

Most faculty and staff won't need to visit the workplace to check for Y2K problems on New Year's Eve, New Year's Day or even Sunday, Jan. 2. If potential Y2K problems don't pose serious risks to your department operations, you probably can wait until the next work day to check your office and equipment. However, if Y2K problems pose considerable risks (such as loss of information, damage to equipment or facilities, vital service interruption or critical impact on projects), you'll want to check for Y2K problems early. (Your departmental Y2K plan should detail what needs to be checked and when.)

Will someone check my building on New Year's Eve?

Shortly after midnight on Dec. 31, facilities staff will begin building "walk-throughs" to verify that operating systems and environmental, safety and security systems are operating properly. Faculty and staff can request that specific areas in their buildings be checked during these walk-throughs. More information on making those requests will be forthcoming.

Are Y2K-related utility problems likely on campus?

Y2K-caused utility outages on the main campus are highly unlikely. Iowa State produces most of its heat, air conditioning and electricity with power plant machinery that predates computer chip technology. Two test runs of power plant control systems have not turned up problems. The university relies on city of Ames water systems, which are expected to operate as normal during the entry into the new year. Since water systems are based on elevated towers, pumping water to buildings doesn't require electricity. Officials also do not anticipate problems with sewer systems, since the pipes flow downhill.

Will emergency housing for city of Ames residents be available on campus?

If Y2K problems result in widespread loss of utilities in Ames, Iowa State facilities will be opened to the public. Hilton Coliseum would be opened first, followed (if needed) by Leid Center and other buildings with large auditoriums. Ames residents should have battery-operated radios and tune to local stations to find out if ISU facilities are open.

Who will be working over the New Year's weekend?

Staff from academic computing, administrative data processing (ADP), facilities management, public safety, risk management, student affairs, telecommunications, external relations and a number of other departments will be on campus or on call as the new year rolls in. Staff in the Y2K Command Center in 27 Armory will coordinate communications and activities during the transition. Official operating hours of the command center are 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 31, to 2 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 1, but many command center activities will be in effect 24 to 48 hours before and after the new year transition.

Who do I call if I'm having Y2K problems?

Call the Y2K Help Line (6-2000). Whether your problem involves computers, facilities, equipment or something else, the Help Line should connect you with the appropriate experts.

The Help Line will be in service from Dec. 1, 1999, to Jan. 31, 2000. The line will ring directly to the Command Center 12 hours before and 12 hours after midnight on New Year's Eve. Staff from a number of departments will be available New Year's weekend to respond to critical problems. However, it's likely that minor Y2K problems will be handled during the following work week by your local computer support provider.

During less critical times, callers to the Y2K Help Line will select from a list of calling options and be routed to the appropriate campus staff.

What if Y2K problems threaten my research?

Officials don't anticipate disruptions in power to buildings. If researchers are having problems with individual equipment, electricians and other experts will be available to lend a hand. Call the Y2K Help Line (6-2000).

Will the campus telephone system work?

Telecommunications officials have high confidence that the university phone system will operate as normal. On-site testing of ISU's Lucent Technologies system isn't possible because the phone system must be fully operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, Lucent's Bell Laboratories has performed extensive Y2K testing, and its system meets numerous federal and international standards for Y2K compliance. Callers should be aware that line congestion could affect calls made from campus telephones to Ames or long distance locations because of the normal, temporary increase in telephone calls around the new year.

Is the campus online network likely to go down as a result of Y2K problems?

Extensive tests on the data network that serves the university online community indicate that the on-campus network will be working as the new year rolls in. Campus officials expect little or no interruption of service to the campus ethernet, Web pages, e-mail, Project Vincent activities, and business and student information systems.

The unknown factor is the reliability of attached networks and servers. If servers or networks malfunction in other areas, for example, you may not be able to send e-mail or view Web pages to those areas.

How can I find information about the status of ISU and the Ames area?

All significant Y2K-related news will be posted on Iowa State's "Today's News" Web site, available from the main university Web page at, and relayed to news media.

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Revised 11/17/99