The Johns Hopkins Gazette: December 13, 1999
December 13, 1999
VOL. 29, NO. 15


Campuses Ready To Greet Y2K

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Don't panic! The famous two words from Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are good advice now that what some call "technological judgment day" is upon us.

The rollover from 1999 to 2000 might be just around the corner, but university staff have been working since early 1996 to suppress the millennium bug and guarantee students, staff and faculty the least amount of headaches come the new year.

Computer systems have been checked, updated and then checked again to make sure that all electronic data is safe. Y2K planning committees have developed contingency plans that take into account everything from the possible malfunction of card key- controlled doors to the threat of a power outage, large or small--even stocking up on dry ice to ensure that laboratory refrigerators and freezers are kept cool. And dedicated Y2K Web sites and phone numbers have been set up to provide everyone with the latest information on the university's compliancy and systems status.

"We're ready, and we're excited," said Stephanie Reel, the university's chief information officer. "I'm proud of the hard work and collaboration that has gotten us to this point.

"Many people have worked thousands of hours to address potential Y2K issues, while also focusing on the strategic imperatives of the university and health system," Reel continued. "We recognize that there will likely be a few issues to be addressed as the century date changes. But we used this challenge as an opportunity to implement enhancements, improve processes and work together to deploy solutions. It's been a terrific example of university-wide collaboration and cooperation."

Internal phone systems are compliant and will function, and neither AT&T and Bell Atlantic expects any service interruptions due to Y2K, according to Elizabeth Rodier, director of telecommunications services for Hopkins Information Technology Systems. There may, however, be some difficulty in making outside calls due to busy circuits on Monday when everyone returns, Rodier said. International calls to certain regions also might be problematic.

Many Hopkins staff will be working over the holiday weekend to address any issues that might arise, but, of course, you may encounter some on your own. Here is a list, by division, of what you need to know related to Y2K.


A Y2K Response Team is ready to jump into action if the effects of the computer programming glitch are felt at Homewood.

The team consists of representatives from facilities, security, business continuity, human resources, public affairs and HITS support services, telecommunications and networking. A referral desk at 410-516-2000 will accept any Y2K-related incident reports and refer the information to the appropriate department.

Stephanie Reel, the university's chief information officer, said that technical support staff will be on the campus during the holiday weekend to test all systems and applications to ensure normal business operations when everyone returns on Jan. 3, 2000. Anyone with information systems questions before or after that date can contact the HITS desk at 410-516-5500 or 410-516-HELP.

Student residence halls will be closed for the holidays and reopened on Jan. 2. David Ashwood, director of plant operations and maintenance, said housing maintenance staff will be working on New Year's Eve to verify that all dormitory systems are functioning properly. Maintenance staff also will be on call from Dec. 31 to Jan. 2 to deal with any problems in the four student apartment buildings, Homewood and Bradford apartments and Wolman and McCoy halls.

Ashwood is confident that all measures have been taken to provide for a smooth transition from 1999 to 2000.

"Our utility systems and life safety systems are all compliant, and the campus energy management system that controls the heating and cooling in the buildings has been tested by moving dates forward," Ashwood said. "I really don't expect any problems."

Ronald Mullen, director of security at Homewood, said his department will be fully staffed to safeguard campus facilities and respond to any critical incidents.

"We have canceled all leaves during the New Year's weekend," Mullen said, adding that anyone having difficulty gaining access to a facility should call security at 410-516-7777.

Updates on the status of all Homewood systems and facilities will be available on the university's emergency information page at or by calling 410-516-2000, the Y2K telephone line.

Peabody Institute

Only staff on the Y2K Response Team should be on the Peabody campus between Dec. 31 and Jan. 2, 2000, according to James Zeller, who coordinated the Y2K effort. Zeller, associate provost for budgets and planning, also said additional security will be on the campus during the New Year's weekend to handle any problems that might arise.

Applied Physics Laboratory

Emergency generators are on standby and the fuel tanks will be topped off as APL readies for the turning of the clock, according to Dick Garritson, deputy assistant director for laboratory operations.

"The things we are most alert to at this point are more in the plant operations arena," Garritson said. "That means all the systems that operate facility services like power, heating and air conditioning."

Garritson said APL staff have implemented "worst-case scenario" planning that accounts for such events as the prolonged loss of power and the impact of a snow or ice storm.

The generators can run for up to 72 hours on a full fuel tank, Garritson said, adding that that should be an ample amount of time.

"Quite frankly, if we have to run them longer than that, something major with regional and national impact has occurred," Garritson said. "But we have fuel supplies in house and suppliers lined up in case we do need additional sources of power, as well as propane heaters in stock to keep spaces heated while we are working with the systems."

Regarding its computer systems, APL is approaching the year 2000 transition with a planned program of normal nightly processing up to New Year's Eve when, at a predetermined time, all business and information computer systems and applications will be shut down. On New Year's Day, the systems will be restarted with application testing to begin later in the day. Additional testing and any necessary corrective actions will continue through Jan. 3, when routine operations will recommence.

The computer help desk number is 443-778-4357.

For specific program-related systems, APL program managers and staff have worked with their government counterparts to test, configure and prepare systems for Y2K compliance. Garritson said that all alert and security measures are also in place.

Beginning at 4 p.m. on Dec. 31, an operations center in Building 46 (the Firehouse) will be manned by Jack Myrick's plant facility staff to receive emergency calls. The number there is 443-778-4777.


Peter Promen, director of the library at SAIS and that division's Y2K coordinator, said that the school will be closed on Dec. 31, and on Jan. 1, designated staff will come in to test all main computer systems.

Anyone who has a computer problem when they return on Jan. 3 should contact Pam Tyler at 202-663-5666.

School of Public Health

Not mice but "a cadre" of Information Systems staff will be stirring around the halls of the Wolfe Street and Hampton House buildings during the critical time between Dec. 31 and Jan. 2 according to Ross McKenzie, director of Information Systems at the School of Public Health.

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to be off-site, as Internet, e-mail, dial-in and statistical applications service will be suspended during this 72-hour period. The Internet connection from the outside, via the hospital, will be off-line to prevent the spread of potential computer viruses and to discourage hackers by lowering the university's Internet profile, according to McKenzie. Student labs also will be closed, from Dec. 31 to 3 p.m. on Jan. 2.

McKenzie recommends that everyone at the School of Public Health back up all their data prior to the holiday weekend. To encourage this, the school has stocked up on Iomega Zip drives and disks, which can be purchased now. The school also has bought a limited number of PC systems in case of Y2K-related emergencies during the week of Jan. 3; to purchase one, call 410-955-3566.

In the event of a power outage, thousands of tons of dry ice have been ordered to keep freezers containing laboratory specimens and supplies cool, and portable generators are available also, both through facilities management at 410-955-3451.

McKenzie said that the School of Public Health has been very proactive with getting the Y2K message out through a series of brown bag lunches and a Web site dedicated to Y2K-related issues. And, he added, its work is still not done. "We intend to send out e-mails and hard copy messages to remind people for the 100th time that there are things they should know and consider about Y2K," McKenzie said.

A recorded message concerning the school's system status has been set up at 410-614-NETS. The information also will be posted at, an alternate Web site maintained by Information Services and hosted by MindSpring.

For help with any computer-related problems, faculty, staff and students are encouraged to contact the main IS help desk line at 410-955-3781 or via e-mail at For detailed information regarding Y2K questions, they should browse the SPH Year 2000 homepage located at

School of Nursing

A memo was sent recently to School of Nursing faculty, staff and students alerting them that the computer system will be shut down during New Year's weekend to minimize the impact of Y2K. Bruce Dennett, director of computing services at the School of Nursing, said the shutdown will begin at a predetermined time after the Anne M. Pinkard Building is closed on Dec. 31 and will remain inactive until noon on Jan. 2, when the building is reopened.

Dennett is advising everyone in the division to log off, shut down and power off their computers prior to leaving for the holiday. During the period of shutdown, there will be no dial-in access, and e-mail will be disabled.

Anyone experiencing a computer-related emergency during the New Year's weekend should contact SON's Computer Services Department at 410-614-3482. Also, CS staff cell phone numbers will be posted outside the department's door. Dennett said he has spare system servers in case there are major Y2K-related complications.

School of Medicine

A JHM Y2K Contingency Planning Commitee has been established to safeguard the School of Medicine from the effects of the millennium bug, but the key phrase is "business as usual," according to Howard Gwon, administrator of the Department of Psychiatry and a chair of the planning committee.

"We don't expect people to create new tasks, but we are asking them to maintain their normal routine during the holidays," Gwon said. "We have left it up to their discretion what level of tasks they decide to maintain between Jan. 1 and Jan. 3."

The JHM Center for Information Systems will have roving teams visiting key areas during the rollover from 1999 to 2000 and at the opening of business on Jan. 3 to check for major hardware and software problems.

To ensure that refrigerated and frozen medical specimens and supplies can be kept cool during a power outage, 32,000 tons of dry ice will be delivered over that weekend.

Gwon added, however, that the planning committee is leaving little to chance. In the occurrence of a Y2K event, a JHMI command center for Y2K issues will operate out of the Smith Room of the Billings Administration Building. Adjunct command centers will address utilities, telecommunications, information systems, clinical engineering and security/transportation.

School administration suggests that anyone encountering problems should go through normal channels. If the contingency plan is implemented, major problems should be reported to the command center at 410-955-3333 or to a disaster team beeper at 410-283-2657.

East Baltimore security/parking

William McLean, director of security for the East Baltimore campus, said all security-related systems have been thoroughly tested and are Y2K compliant. However, he said, extra personnel will be on duty to address problems that might arise, such as posting guards at appropriate doors if the car key system does not work. Security also will ensure that back-up batteries on doors, if applicable, are fully charged.

All campus lots and parking garages will be open on New Year's weekend. If automatic gates are not functioning, they will be switched to manual operation. Escorts, both walking and motorized, will be available by calling 410-955-5585, the primary number to call on the East Baltimore campus for assistance with security, parking or transportation problems.