Millennium Bug Watch

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The Independent Online
PERHAPS YOU are not worried yet about the millennium bug. But the American Red Cross is. Its website has a page, quietly added earlier this month, offering lots of advice which - while rational - carries worrying undertones.

After suggesting you get in touch with manufacturers of things such as electronic garage door openers, it abruptly suggests: "Stock disaster supplies to last several days to a week for yourself and those who live with you. This includes having nonperishable foods, stored water, and an ample supply of prescription and non- prescription medications that you regularly use." Then it adds, strangely: "The Red Cross doesn't recommend hoarding supplies."

But cash? Yes. "Have some extra cash on hand in case computer-controlled electronic transactions involving ATM cards, credit cards and the like cannot be processed. Plan to keep cash in a safe place, and withdraw money from your bank in small amounts well in advance of 12/31/99 to avoid long lines at the bank at the last minute."

Petrol? "Plan to fill your automobile gas tank a day or so before 12/31/99." Power? "In case the power fails, plan to use alternative cooking devices ... Have extra blankets, coats, hats, and gloves to keep warm ... Have plenty of flashlights and extra batteries on hand. Don't use candles for emergency lighting."

For anyone still feeling calm after that, it concludes: "Be prepared to relocate to a shelter for warmth and protection during a prolonged power outage or if for any other reason local officials request or require that you leave your home. Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for information about where shelters will be available."

Perhaps this is a good time to buy a battery- operated TV. If you can think of any. The British Red Cross meanwhile has no Year 2000 advice on its web pages at present.