Academic journal article JITTA : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application

Emergency Response Systems: The Utility Y2k Experience

Academic journal article JITTA : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application

Emergency Response Systems: The Utility Y2k Experience

Article excerpt


This paper describes Emergency Information Systems (EIS) used by a utility during the Year 2000 rollover. The systems are analyzed with respect to the literature and lessons learned are discussed. Several factors are identified that impact the design and effectiveness of these systems. These factors are generalized to the overall design and management of current Emergency Systems. Of particular interest are the findings related to integration of EIS from different organizations and the difficulties that were encountered. Additional findings with respect to training, common nomenclature, and organizational turf needs are also discussed.


Emergency Information Systems (EIS) are used by organizations to assist in responding to a crisis or disaster situation. These systems support communications, data gathering and analysis, and decision-making. EIS are rarely used but when needed, must function well and without fail. Designing and building these systems requires designers to anticipate what will be needed, what resources will be available, and how conditions will differ from normal. A standard model for an EIS is from Bellardo, Karwan and Wallace (1984) and identifies the components as including a database, data analysis capability, normative models, and an interface. This model is only somewhat useful as it fails to address issues such as how the EIS fits into the overall disaster response plan, EIS infrastructure, multiple organization spanning, and integrating multiple systems. Additionally, many organizations do not address the need for an EIS until a disaster happens, and then, only for a few months until something more pressing comes up (Jennex 2003). The result is that many organizations have an EIS that may not be adequate.

The purpose of this paper is to look at the use of EIS for the Year 2000 (Y2K) rollover and to generalize lessons learned to the building of future EIS. While the rollover to the year 2000 proceeded with few problems, organizations all over the world were prepared for disaster. What makes studying Y2K interesting is that as a scheduled disaster, organizations had time to prepare to respond. This paper discusses how a utility in the United States prepared and implemented their EIS for the rollover. Many lessons pertaining to the design and implementation of EIS were learned and will be presented. It should be noted that much of the data used in this paper was collected by the author in his role as project manager responsible for Y2K contingency planning for this utility. The author was personally responsible for designing and implementing the EIS and participated in one of the emergency centers activated for Y2K. Another note is that Y2K actually consisted of two rollovers, the December 32 to January 1 and the February 28 to February 29 rollovers. The first rollover went so well that little adjustment was made for the second rollover. This rollover occurred with even fewer events then the first and is mentioned here only for completeness.

How generalizeable are these lessons? It can be argued that with Y2K being a planned and scheduled emergency it is not representative of a real emergency. While that is acknowledged it is also argued that real emergencies are planned and many are somewhat scheduled. For instance it is known that there will be earthquakes and brush fires in southern California so officials prepare an EIS to respond to these events. Also, while earthquakes are not predictable, brush fires tend to happen during fire season making these somewhat predictable events. The same can be said for hurricanes and tornados, both tend to occur during specific seasons making both somewhat predictable. For these reasons, lessons learned from Y2K with respect to designing and implementing an EIS are considered relevant and generalizeable to all emergencies.


Emergency Information Systems

Emergencies and disasters are high stress situations that require organizations to respond in a manner that is different from their normal operating procedures (Turoff 2002). …

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