Tuesday, December 21, 1999

In Hawaii,
people less afraid
of Y2K bug

Residents also are better
prepared for potential computer
problems than they were in February

By Christine Donnelly


Hawaii residents are less worried about and more prepared for the Y2K computer bug than they were early this year, according to the latest Honolulu Star-Bulletin/NBC Hawaii News 8 poll.

Like the vast majority, retired schoolteacher Herbert Matsumoto knows about the potential for trouble but does not expect the worst. "I've done some minimal things (to prepare), got some extra rice, water, toilet paper, maybe a week's supply," said Matsumoto, 75, who lives in Salt Lake.

The lifelong Hawaii resident attended community workshops on the subject and came away believing "that there won't be that many problems in Hawaii. But I know it's a bigger concern internationally, things could go wrong."

Ninety-seven percent of people polled this month had heard of malfunctions that could occur as computer-dating systems roll over from 1999 to 2000.

Only 7 percent this month expected major disruptions in Hawaii, down from 19 percent in a similar poll in February. And the percentage expecting no trouble at all has more than doubled, to 26 percent in the latest poll from 12 percent in February. The percentage expecting minor disruptions in the islands remained about the same, 59 percent this month compared with 55 percent in February.

Faith in nation

Nuuanu resident Marsha White counts herself among the unconcerned. "I know about it, I don't consider it a problem. I'm not doing anything at all to prepare. Period," said the 60-year-old Sheraton Waikiki waitress. "Well, I wouldn't fly that night. Why should you put yourself at any risk? But other than that, nothing."

White has a newish computer at home she hopes will keep working, "but if it doesn't then I'll deal with it then."

Hawaii residents are much more confident the United States as a whole will face mainly minor glitches, with 11 percent expecting major problems, down from 22 percent in February. But they were slightly less confident about the rest of the world, with 45 percent now expecting major disruptions internationally, up from 42 percent in February.

The banking industry, which has spent millions of dollars upgrading computers controlling everything from automatic teller machines to check printers, apparently has done a good job reassuring customers that it is ready for 2000. Thirteen percent of the most recent poll respondents said they were very worried about the Y2K bug's impact on banks and financial institutions, down from 27 percent in February.

By contrast, the current level of concern about other industries, including the U.S. military, medical establishments, electric companies and airlines, was down only slightly from February. Among those industries, people were most worried about medical establishments and 911 emergency systems, with 52 percent this month either very or somewhat worried about disruptions, compared with 56 percent in February.

(Police and officials from Honolulu's major hospitals have said they do not expect major problems, given the amount of time and money spent upgrading their computer systems.)

Ready for the worst

Thirty-four percent in the latest poll said they were preparing for possible disruptions, up from 20 percent last February. Of those not already preparing, 39 percent said they would by the end of the year, up from 26 percent in the earlier poll.

The so-called millennium bug stems from the computer programming practice of using only the last two digits to represent a year. Left uncorrected, computers might misread "00" for 1900 in the new year, disrupting systems that run power grids, control traffic lights and do other key tasks.

Hawaii state and county government officials have said the state is well-prepared, but still advise to plan as for an approaching hurricane, with a few days' supply of nonperishable food, water, cash, flashlight batteries, etc.

Overreacting, such as hoarding money under the mattress, is not recommended and could cause more problems than the computer bug itself, the experts say.

Online advisory, hotline

For more information, the U.S. government has a Y2K advisory on the Internet at or via a toll-free number: 1-888-USA-4-Y2K.

The poll, conducted for the Star-Bulletin and NBC Hawaii News 8, included 411 registered voters interviewed by telephone Dec. 9-13 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. of Washington, D.C. The margin for error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.

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