The University Record, February 15, 1999

Utilities ahead of the game in Y2K compliance

By Jane R. Elgass

Ahead of the game on Y2K compliance, Utilities and Maintenance Services (UMS) recently announced that testing of elevators and computer-operated building management systems has been successfully completed.

“We are confident that systems such as fire alarm and detection, elevators, access control, chiller controls, power plant controls, outlying boiler controls, heating-ventilation-air conditioning building management systems, and in-house management software are now compliant or that modifications and upgrades are in process and will be completed soon,” says Richard W. Robben, director, maintenance and utility services, Maintenance Services Administration and Engineering.

UMS implemented a five-part plan several months ago, designed specifically to address operations primarily concerned with mechanical and electrical control systems and their components. Plan elements include:

• Inventorying components and systems.

• Assessing “criticality” rankings.

• Compliance investigations.

• Test planning for life safety and mission-critical components.

• Testing and remediation.

Robben says UMS is close to completing the inventory of systems and components for which it is responsible, criticality assessments also are nearly complete, and compliance information is being collected from vendors. An inventory report will be available at the end of the month.

Help needed

“Every building on campus is at risk for an interruption of energy supplies during the Y2K transition,” Robben explains. “Even though the information we are receiving from the utility industry assesses the risk as quite low, we are none-the-less preparing to deal with power interruptions. Since it is impossible to say exactly what might happen to the local and national energy infrastructures, we are advising you to plan for the worst case.”

While UMS is analyzing the many possible contingencies involving the loss of any or all utilities from suppliers and developing contingency action plans, Robben is seeking help from building managers to identify “highly critical operations that absolutely cannot be shut down during the Y2K transition.” These might include, for example, systems that cannot be maintained in a safe mode without power, continuous research that cannot be stopped and restarted without significant and meaningful loss of data, or temperature control in occupied animal quarters.

“Under a worst case,” Robben notes, “there may be times when only part of the campus can be served with utilities. We will attempt to maintain minimum environment conditions in all buildings, as well as serving the critical loads identified by building managers.”

UMS also needs to know who in each unit is responsible for that unit’s Y2K facilities issues, since it will be easier to work with a limited number of coordinators rather than several contacts for each building.

“UMS considers the Y2K transition a serious potential threat to the University’s operations,” Robben notes. “However, we are confident that with thorough preparation we will be able to either eliminate or quickly react to any Y2K transition-related problems that may arise.”

Information on needs and contact persons should be sent by March 1 to Bill Verge, manager, Engineering Utilities and Maintenance Services, 326 E. Hoover 1002, 647-0959,