Tuesday, July 20, 1999

Hawaii 2000

State’s big
companies ready
for Y2K

A Civil Defense official
in the islands says no major
failures are likely

Bankoh command center ready

By Christine Donnelly


As the clock ticks toward the Year 2000, Hawaii's large corporations are busy preparing "command centers" from which high-level executives will battle the so-called "Y2K bug" wherever it might strike.

Companies such as Bank of Hawaii, GTE Hawaiian Tel and Hawaiian Electric Co. have been working for years to fix the computer problem. Although confident the fixes will stand up and they'll face no major disruptions, companies say it's only prudent to have contingency plans.

With 164 days left, those plans are at the forefront now.

A few days before Dec. 31 and continuing into the New Year, GTE Hawaiian Tel will have a "war room" at its Bishop Street headquarters from which key personnel will monitor GTE operations around the globe. Hawaii businesses and government agencies have an advantage because the state will be among the last places to greet the new century.

"That's a real benefit to us, having virtually the rest of the world experience it first," said Keith Kamisugi, spokesman for GTE Hawaiian Tel.

Heco's contingency plans include having extra staff on hand, including power plant operators, troubleshooting crews and customer service representatives to field questions from consumers.

It's just one of thousands of employers in Hawaii and nationwide limiting vacations over the Christmas and New Year's holidays; virtually all big companies and government agencies are keeping key staff on call.

And that does not mean only computer technicians must be available. At Bank of Hawaii's Honolulu command center, for example, top executives will be among the at-least six staffers on the job over the holiday.

Mary P. Carryer, vice chairwoman of Bank of Hawaii and its parent company Pacific Century Financial Corp., said she won't mind missing century-ending New Year's Eve bashes to work that night.

"Actually, with all the work we've put into this project, I can't imagine being anywhere else," said Carryer, who oversees the bank's Y2K project. "We look forward to moving successfully into the Year 2000, as we know we will."

A big part of contingency planning, both in corporate America and among government agencies, is convincing the public that the threat is not dire. Billions of dollars are being spent worldwide to avert the bug, which is rooted in older computers' inability to decipher data dated 2000.

Roy Price, vice chairman of the state Civil Defense agency, has assessed of every major industry in Hawaii, from transportation to telecommunications to health care to financial services. He's confident the state's in good shape.

"It's being solved. I am not expecting major failures and I want that message to get out loud and clear," he said. "Otherwise, fear of an event, and overreaction, can be worse than the actual event."

Although some states are activating their National Guard units in advance, officials say that's not necessary in Hawaii. However, the Hawaii National Guard and Civil Defense will have minimal staffing around-the-clock over the holiday weekend at their respective emergency command centers.

"It's mainly to answer calls from the public," said Price. "I don't expect anything to happen. But I do expect people to call just to to make sure everything's OK."

Bank of Hawaii has high-tech
command center on hand

Star-Bulletin staff


Bank of Hawaii's emergency command center in downtown Honolulu stands ready for any disaster. Its last emergency use was in September 1997, when a fire in Hawaiian Electric Co.'s underground cable network left Bankoh's headquarters without power all day.

In a tour last week, Ray Trombley, manager of Bank of Hawaii's corporate disaster preparedness, pointed out the center's Internet-capable computers, TVs, long-life cellular phones and two-way radios aimed at keeping bank managers informed of happenings in Hawaii and all over the world.

"From this room, our WHAM team (which stands for warning and management) can respond to virtually any crisis," Trombley said. "But I cannot emphasize enough that it's for contingency purposes. We expect our operations Jan. 1, 2000 to be completely normal."

Clocks line the walls showing the time in all the zones where Bankoh has operations, from Fiji to Hong Kong to New York. Hard copies of the company's contingency plans are stacked neatly on shelves. Bright orange outlets signal access to diesel-generated power, in case the electricity fails.

The multiroom center also includes bathrooms, a shower, cots for sleeping and a small kitchen equipped with a microwave oven. Fresh food and water is replenished as needed.

Since the well-stocked center is so rarely needed for disasters, the bank also uses its rear conference room for training seminars, including ones recently on Y2K readiness.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin