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Turn off computers, lights, relax (cautiously) for Y2K

"If they can, all computer users at MIT should turn off their desktop computers, turn out the lights, go home and enjoy the long Y2K weekend," says Gerry Isaacson, the head of MIT's Y2K Transition Team and manager of data security.

"If you can't do that, then you should be confident that MIT's basic support systems -- emergency response, power, telephones, e-mail, Internet -- will all be in place. But to be on the safe side, people should avoid putting stress on those systems if they possibly can -- and they should recognize that MIT's Y2K readiness isn't the only issue that weekend. There are a lot of other variables that weekend, on campus and off. We don't know what First Night will do to traffic, and we don't know what the weather's going to be like, either.

"The bottom line is this: if you've got an experiment running or animals to take care of over the weekend, maybe you should plan on having someone on the premises to monitor your systems through the Y2K transition," Mr. Isaacson said. "And if you're going to be here, let the Y2K Transition Team know so we can assist you if you have problems. Call us at x3-2000."


MIT's Nuclear Reactor Laboratory is planning to shut down for the transition weekend. "Safety has always been the paramount concern of the MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, and the Lab's Y2K planning has been thorough and systematic," noted MIT Vice President and Dean for Research David Litster. "While there is no technical reason for this shutdown, the hard working Reactor Lab staff deserve a weekend off. They also want to alleviate any concerns people may have and to support the Institute policy that as many systems and activities as practical should not operate over the Y2K weekend."

"We really appreciate the willingness of the Reactor Lab to shut down for the long weekend," said Mr. Isaacson. "Their action underscores our basic message.


With 16 days left before New Year's Eve, more than 1,000 research labs and centers have yet to send the Safety Office updated "Green Card" information about who to contact in an emergency.

Fewer than 40 percent of approximately 1,700 requests for updated emergency information have been received from the Institute's research labs and centers, according to William E. McShea Jr., deputy head of the Y2K Transition Team and assistant safety officer in the Safety Office.

Longstanding MIT policy requires that these green cards be posted on every laboratory or other research facility to help emergency responders assess problems in case of after-hours accidents or other emergencies.

"We also distributed about 500 copies of a short Y2K survey to many of the same labs and centers," Mr. McShea said. Less than 50 responses were returned to his office. While some of the respondents indicated they had plans to halt or curtail their activities during the Y2K transition, some labs which will be in operation had no contingency plans for loss of power, interruption of phone service or failure of computer-based measurement or control systems. The Safety Office will follow up with those who responded to the survey, Mr. McShea said.

Mr. Isaacson commented, "It may be that they have decided that there isn't much they can do if something goes wrong, and that they're satisfied with MIT's overall transition plan. In the end, the responsibility for specific contingency planning rests with each research facility."

MIT's administrative and operational units have been preparing for the Y2K transition for more than a year and a half. The Safety Office, Facilities, Information Systems, Telecommunications, Campus Police, MIT Medical, Residential Life and Student Life Programs, the Office of Campus Dining, Parking and Transportation and many other units have collaborated in preparing the Institute for the Y2K transition weekend (Friday, Dec. 31 through Tuesday morning, Jan. 4).

Information about MIT's preparations for the Y2K transition, along with advice on how to prepare individual computers and workstations, may be found at the following web sites: and Members of the MIT community with questions about planning for the Y2K transition weekend may call x3-2000 for assistance.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 15, 1999.

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