Y2K bug won't bite security systems

(Original text may be viewed here.)

10 November 1999:

Lisa Brown
Lighthouse staff

LUNENBURG - If your house or business is protected by a security system, you shouldn't have to worry about the New Year beginning with a blast.

Randy Whynacht is the director of field operations for Whynacht Security and Survival, one of the largest alarm companies in the area. After checking and rechecking computers and equipment, Mr. Whynacht is confident security systems won't be one of the areas bitten by the Y2K bug as midnight December 31 rolls over to January 1, 2000.

Whynacht Security is involved with about 1,200 security systems overall. Between the company's two stations in Lunenburg and Digby, about 600 of those systems are monitored. All systems and the equipment and computers that operate them have been checked in the past 18 months.

That process began with thorough testing of the systems in the office. Clocks were rolled ahead to the eve of the year 2000 and were left to run for a day.

"We had absolutely no problems," Mr. Whynacht says.

The company then went back to all the manufacturers of their equipment and obtained written certification to provide to clients who requested it.

"Once we tested it here in the office, it was time to look at the stuff in the field," Mr. Whynacht explains. "First and foremost, it was an easy job. I want to emphasize that. Most security systems do not have any time and date dependant functions whatsoever."

Once again, the company tested equipment and went back to manufacturers for final clearances. The basic premise for security equipment as it is with other electronic devices, Mr. Whynacht says, is simple.

"If you don't have to go to it when the time changes forward and back spring and fall and tell it the time has changed, then it doesn't care," he says. "If you have to adjust a clock at the beginning when you install a system and tell it what year, what day, what month and what time it is, then it should be tested."

That should be a two-part test. The first hurdle is the roll over to the New Year. The second is the date change to February 29 to ensure that the device recognizes that the year 2000 is a leap year. Testing both is as easy as setting the clock ahead and allowing it to roll over. If everything still works, the system should be fine.

"We only identified in the course of that research two systems that we were involved with that had potential for a problem. Neither one ended up having one," Mr. Whynacht says.

Both systems were interfaced with card access systems designed to unlock a business premises at a specific time of day and arm the system automatically at the end of the day. Those systems had to be aware of the time of day and the day of the week.

"So we went and did that in January and February even though the manufacturer assured me in writing that it was fine," Mr. Whynacht says. "By the time we were all done, we had a situation where I can honestly say that if Maritime Tel & Tel hasn't lied to me and the power corporation hasn't lied to me, we're ready."

Whynacht Security and Survival has good stand-by power already, and the company is in the process of increasing generator power. Consequently, even if power fails for the short-term, that won't be a problem.

Many of the security systems are also more or less phone line independent.

Just to be on the safe side, Whynacht Security staff will run a series of tests just after midnight on New Year's Eve to verify that all systems are working properly.

Depending on the features clients require, the company does use a couple of systems that program a clock and date. Even if those systems experience difficulties, it shouldn't be anything more than a warning light that the clock has glitched. Mr. Whynacht expects some people with older systems will see similar trouble shooting lights.

"That happens periodically anyway. It's not unusual for those systems to hiccup and lose track of the time," he says.

"They really don't care. There are ancient security systems out there that are still working perfectly fine that we're maintaining."


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