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Most smaller chemical firms
not ready for year 2000

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Source: Computerworld

Download Report (pdf format): Y2K Readiness of Small and Medium Size Enterprises

Survey: Most smaller chemical firms not ready for year 2000 By Patrick Thibodeau

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate's Y2K committee today released a survey that showed an alarmingly high number of small chemical manufacturing, handling and transportation firms haven't completed their Y2K repair work, creating the potential for a year 2000-related catastrophic event.

The survey, conducted by the Mary Kay O'Connor Process Safety Center at Texas A&M University in College Station, found that 86% of the small and medium-sized chemical handlers and manufacturers -- firms with 200 or fewer employees -- aren't prepared for Y2K nor have they coordinated contingency plans with local emergency officials.

Of those firms, 4% said Y2K presents the potential for a catastrophic event, while 30% said economic disruption was the worst possible scenario.

Committee co-chairs Sens. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) and Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) said they would be urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Environmental Protection Agency to alert state emergency officials of the findings. A U.S. Chemical Safety Board official also urged action by large manufacturers to check on the readiness of their supply chain and customers.

"Responsible stewardship," said Jerry Poje, a board official, requires large companies "to be doing the greatest degree of outreach possible to small and midsized enterprises who may be linked to their product streams."

Most small chemical manufacturers use batch processes that can be controlled and turned off. But the survey also looks at a wide variety of companies that may handle dangerous chemicals in large amounts. Water treatment facilities may have substantial quantities of chlorine, while food handlers may have large stocks of ammonia.

While federal officials have said they were confident of the steps being taken by large chemical companies, they had little information on the readiness of small chemical makers and handlers. This was the first scientific survey of chemical makers and handlers of this size -- an area that until now federal officials said they had little data on.

Regarding the potential for a disaster, the survey report said that "While a very few isolated catastrophic events involving loss of life or destruction of property are possible, the most likely scenario of a severe Y2K failure could be compared to a localized 3-4 day power outage following a storm."

The survey focused on firms in New Jersey, Kansas, California and Texas.

Download Report (pdf format) Y2K Readiness of Small and Medium Size Enterprises

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