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Major 9999 problems unlikely but no guarantees

Some computers may malfunction on the 9th September 99, although no widespread problems are expected. “But there are no guarantees and the Readiness Commission will be monitoring developments”, Basil Logan, Chairman of the Y2K Readiness Commission said.

“Concern has been expressed that the use of 9999 in computer code might cause confusion to some systems when they come to the 9th of September, 1999.

“The Y2K Readiness Commission is advised by its experts that 9999, or similar date codes such as 090999, are unlikely to result in major difficulties on 9th September or subsequently.

“But there can be no guarantees. Indeed, as with Y2K itself, the problem may not become apparent until a programme is used, which may be some time later.

“The date codes appear to be mainly found in older code on computer systems.

“However we are advised that the use of 9999 and its variants is much less widespread than Y2K, is relatively easy to search for and correct, has been well recognised for some time and is easily dealt with within a Y2K remedial programme.”

Meanwhile, the Commission says that tonight’s test by the Ministry for Emergency Management of some elements of the Ministry’s Incident Management System will help towards New Zealand’s Y2K monitoring at the end of the year.

The Ministry for Emergency Management is testing parts of its system between the hours of 10pm and 2am overnight of 8/9 September. Y2K Readiness Commission staffers will observe the test.

The Ministry will report on its test early on 9th September. The Y2K Readiness Commission will provide reports on significant date impacts, if any, at noon on the 9th and the 10th of September and subsequently if needed.

The Ministry is one of a range of organisations in New Zealand and abroad with which the Commission is working to develop a smooth and effective process for monitoring and reporting on New Zealand’s Y2K status during and beyond the transition to the new century.

Basil Logan said:
“We believe people will, on the night of 31 December and later, want to know what is happening and where, its likely duration, significance and impact and – importantly – what is Y2K related and what is not.

“We need to ensure that the Y2K status of New Zealand is regularly assessed, and is communicated to the New Zealand Government, key sectors of the economy, the New Zealand media and public and to foreign governments and world media.

“So we are establishing a New Zealand Y2K Status Centre in the Beehive at New Year.

“The objective is to provide access to timely, accurate information that is placed in context. Sources of information will include the Ministry for Emergency Management, local councils and regional emergency management, key sectors utilities and the Global Y2K Status Centre in Washington D.C.”

“We are anticipating intense international interest in New Zealand’s Y2K status especially during the first few hours of the new century. Therefore we will need reporting processes and systems that are well-tested, coordinated and transparent,” said Mr Logan.

The Y2K Status Centre will supply information and accompanying evaluations at regular intervals including, but not limited to, the first 24 hours of the new century.

The Commission’s website www.y2k.govt.nz. will carry the information. In addition, the Commission will provide evaluation information and comment on the Ministry for Emergency Management dedicated monitoring website www.watchnz.govt.nz. This will display utilities and emergency services incident information. The Ministry is arranging sufficient cache (capacity) to handle expected worldwide demand.

Concluding the announcement today, Mr Logan said:

“Having a robust and transparent testing process, of which tonight’s test by the Ministry for Emergency Management is one instance, is a part of New Zealand’s ongoing preparedness. We believe that this provides assurance to New Zealanders and to others of our commitment to Y2K preparedness.”

A fuller briefing on the New Zealand Y2K Status Centre will be provided in October when details are settled.

ENDS


Overview of roles and responsibilities on monitoring, evaluation and reporting

Y2K Readiness Commission

The Y2K Readiness Commission has the primary role in evaluation and comment on Y2K matters. The Commission will be setting up a national Y2K Status Centre, which will be based initially in the Beehive.

The Commission is working with a range of people to develop a smooth and effective process for monitoring and reporting on New Zealand’s Y2K status during and beyond the transition to the new century. These people include officials, representatives of key sectors and overseas counterparts

The objective is to ensure that during and beyond the transition to the new century:

 the Y2K status of New Zealand is regularly assessed
 the status is communicated to the NZ Government, key sectors of the economy, the NZ media and the NZ public
 that status is communicated to foreign governments and world media directly and though the Y2K Global Status Centre.

The Commission will receive information from several sources to help fulfil its monitoring, reporting and evaluation responsibilities. A full brief on the transition and beyond system and processes will be provided in October.

An important source will be evaluations of Y2K performance provided by sector representatives. Another source will be information from the Incident Monitoring System of the Ministry for Emergency Management (MEM). The Ministry’s system is intended to coordinate organisations within New Zealand involved in the transmission, processing and reporting of information about actual and potential problems during the transition to the New Year and beyond. It includes more than Y2K and millennium events.

Ministry for Emergency Management

Sectors such as power and telecommunications are expected to coordinate response within their own sector.
Local government has a prime role in regional emergency management coordination.

Should it be necessary, MEM will coordinate emergency management responses to incidents across sectors using established regional and local government civil defence and emergency management arrangements.

MEM Incident Monitoring System

The following is the outline of roles and responsibilities within the Ministry’s Incident Monitoring System.

The principal participants in the Incident Monitoring System are:

 The National Monitoring Centre (the National Emergency Operations Centre located in the Beehive);
 16 Regional Monitoring Centres, covering the entire country;
 National utilities, which provide services across all or most of the country;
 Regional and Local utilities;
 Emergency services and Health

The Regional Monitoring Centres

 Act as conduits for receiving information of potential and actual incidents from local utilities and transmit reports to the National Monitoring Centre. The Regional Monitoring Centre works with local utilities, territorial local authorities and emergency services.

National utilities

 Service providers such as Transpower, TranzRail, Telecom, NGC etc

Local utilities

 Those services providers that will report to one or more Regional Monitoring Centres. A water supply authority for a city is one example. Any utility whose area of coverage extends over two or more regions would report any supply outage to the Regional Monitoring Centre in which the failure occurred.

Emergency Services

 These, such as Police, Hospitals, the Fire Service and the Maritime Safety Authority, will normally report through their national headquarters to the National Monitoring Centre.


ENDS

Fact Sheet on 9999 issue

Likely impact

Concern has been expressed that the use of 9999 in computer code might cause confusion to some systems when they come to the 9th of September, 1999.

The Y2K Readiness Commission is advised by its experts that 9999, or similar date codes such as 090999, are unlikely to result in major difficulties on 9 September or subsequently.

But there can be no guarantees. Indeed, as with Y2K itself, the problem may not become apparent until a programme is used, which may be some time later.

9999 in its various forms is mainly about values in data, seems to be much less widespread than Y2K, is relatively easy to search for and correct, has been well recognised for some time and is easily dealt with within a Y2K remedial programme.


Background on 9999 use

9999 involves the use of these numbers in computer systems as simply a date value.

The purpose of using 9999 (or, in some systems, 090999, or 09091999, 999999 or even 31121999) was not connected to the 9th of September 1999.

Its purpose was to mark a data item or file with an ‘artificial’ date so far away in the future that it could not be confused with any actual dates being used. The intent was to convey a special meaning to that data or file – such as “keep this information forever” or “always deal with this item first, regardless of what date it is.”


Where found today

The use of 9999 is mainly found in older code on computer systems though some consider it might, rarely, affect embedded chips.

Utilities and others involved in Y2K work have included 9999 identification and remediation in their programmes.

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