Checklist to Prepare for Y2K

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Checklist to Prepare for Y2K

The Shalom Center, drawing on several existing Y2K "checklists" for preparing your household, has developed a Checklist for households, congregations, and other communal groups.

If we are to help people turn away from either denial or panic, we must turn toward concrete actions that can not only help us prepare for 2000, but help us shape the stronger communities that people yearn for. That is what the Checklist is for.

Although we hope it will be useful, we must note its shortcomings. Few people, given a piece of paper that lists a lot of work to do, will carry out that work on their own. It is working together, with friends and neighbors who stir and remind each other, that is more likely to get the work done.

In addressing the dangers of Y2K, the greatest joys will come from sharing skills and tools with neighbors, finding out who can supply a wood stove, who can chop the wood to fuel it, who can ferry large amounts of canned food from a warehouse food store, who can do first aid.

Facing a danger alone, we realize how helpless we are, and retreat into silence and denial. Facing the same danger together, we realize how as a community we have the wherewithal to deal with it.

So in some ways, the crucial checklist is the one listing the friends and neighbors you have called, met with, talked with, shared with.

The Global Action Plan has actually developed two step-by-step guides for empowering a neighborhood to address Y2K. One is called All Together Now: A Y2K Program for Personal and Neighborhood Self-Reliance, and the other, All Together Now: Y2K Community Preparedness Organizing Tools. We especially recommend the first. We cannot supply these handbooks here, but you can download them from the World Wide Web. Call GAP at 914/679-4830, or write GAP at P. O Box 428, Woodstock NY 12498 or through Email at

The Website to use for this guidebook is

We have found the GAP guide is best understood by literally reading it aloud with a friend, and then the two of you joining to teach it to others. Here the existing congregational community can give you a good beginning. If the congregation has called its members together on a Sunday in October to explore how to deal with Y2K, that guide may be the most useful tool.

Why then do we include another checklist in this Website? Because it is a key reminder of the areas in which we need to prepare ourselves. And for households that are motivated enough to act even before there are neighborhood teams, the list is already useful.


The following list is aimed most directly at households. The most obvious level at which it could be used by synagogues and other congregations is that they could get it into the hands of their members and neighbors, for household use.

And, a great deal of the list would also apply to community centers like synagogues themselves. That is, it would apply to their own lives, buildings, and programs.

Given the teachings of Judaism and other religious traditions about special concern for the poor and the sick, synagogues and similar congregations should take into account that if the Y2K glitch does lead to any problems in a given neighborhood, the most vulnerable people of all are likely to be the poor, the sick, and the aged.

So synagogues could draw on the following list not only to check out their own regular relationships with their suppliers and contractors (banks, their internal membership and donor lists, utility companies, caterers, etc), but to prepare for the possible need to help vulnerable people who live nearby.

For example: a congregation might make a contingency plan for an emergency center to meet the needs of a reasonable number of people who might need help for a limited period of time. (Experience from natural disasters suggests that three days, 72 hours, covers most urgent needs before broader social systems kick in.) Say the congregation decides it can meet the needs of 100 people. Then the congregation might extrapolate from the items below how to meet the three-day food, health, etc. needs of 100 people.

For a different kind of example: like the individuals to whom the "Family, Community, Nation" section below is directed, a synagogue could take on the task of raising questions with officials of local government, writing letters to the editor, etc etc., to make sure that preparation for Y2K is going forward.

Wherever one congregation decides it intends to address the Y2K question, it could ask the clergy and staff of other congregations in the neighborhood to meet to share ideas and responsibilities.

Whether you are planning for an individual household only or for a congregation, for each task that is skectched out below, ask yourself: Who must help to make this succeed? Whose support and help would be most useful? Who is most likely to oppose or disapprove of this? And why did you select each person as you did?

You should end up with a small group of people, even if just a friend, partner, or spouse, who understand what you're doing and support you in that. Notice how much it helps.

Please note that acting on many of these items would benefit your life, your household, and your congregation even if Y2K had never been a problem. Acting on them would help create a synagogue much readier to cope with natural disasters, much readier to reach out to its neighbors, much more attuned to the "down-to-earth" lives of its members.

Acting on them would help build the kind of self-reliance that is communal and neighborly, not isolated and alienated.

Life is with people, the Jews of eastern Europe used to say; our very word for peoplehood, "am," has the same root as "im," with. To be a people is to be a "withness." This checklist shows what specific deeds can turn that assertion into a living truth.


l. Buy or put together a first-aid kit, and a practical book on first aid.

2. Make a list of all active prescriptions for your family. If doing without any would run a health risk, ask your doctor what to do.

3. Buy a book on home treatment of illnesses and other medical conditions. Build up a home supply of common over-the-counter medical items.

Home or Congregational Building

1. Go through your house or building, and determine what each of the following uses:

Heat: electricity, gas, oil, coal, wood Water heater: electricity, gas, oil Clothes dryer: electricity, gas Stove: electricity, gas, wood Oven: electricity, gas, wood Air conditioning: electricity, gasSewage: septic tank, sewer system

2. Go through and around your house and locate the following items. If you're not sure what you're looking for, get a friend, neighbor, or family member to help.

    • Electricity: meter
    • Electricity: circuit breaker panel(s) and/or fuse box(es)
    • Gas: meter and master shut-off valve (usually by the meter)
    • Gas: shut-off valves for each appliance that uses gas (water heater, etc.)
    • Water: master shut-offvalve
    • Oil: tank refill pipe

3. Buy at least two battery-powered radios, one of which can run on regular wall current; save batteries till you need them.

4. Buy at least one well-made flashlight for every room in the house, plus one for each car.

Try to focus on flashes, radios, etc that use C-cell batteries.

5. Buy a propane camping lantern and several small propane cartridges, waterproof matches, and some thick, sturdy candles.

6. Buy enough batteries for two complete changes for all of the radios and flashlights above.

7. For each member of your household, build up a two-week supply of drinking water (15 gallons per person, minimum). plus a few gallons of plain laundry bleach.

8. Buy a propane camping stove and several small propane canisters.

9. Have at least one phone that doesn't need a power outlet. (Portable phones that you can carry around the house require power.)

10. If you have a mobile (cellular, digital, PCS) phone or a notebook computer, get a car power adapter for it so that you can recharge it even if your house doesn't have power.

11.Keep a large box of extra-strength trash bags.

12. Do a Y2K assessment of anything in your household that allows you to set the year except for your personal computer (watch, VCR, camera, camcorder, mobile phone, some desk phones). Be sure to have your purchase receipts handy in case of problems; or, if you don't want to risk your device and the model is current, go to a store that sells it and ask the salesperson to let you do a Y2K rollover. In either case, set the date to December 31, 1999, and the time to 11:59 PM, then let it roll over into 2000 while using it.

13. Back up all your important computer files: documents, spreadsheets, e-mail, and so on, unless you have a Mac.

15. Be sure you have a bike in good condition.

16. If you think your water service is about to be in trouble, fill everything in the house that you can with tap water; tubs, sinks, pots, pans, vases, and so on.

17. Fill washed-out soda and milk bottles about 80% full of water and store in the freezer alongside your frozen food. In case of a power outage, these will help keep the freezer cold as well as providing some extra drinking water should that be necessary. Or you can move some or all of them to the refrigerator to help keep that cold instead.

Test everything you buy at least once, and preferably as soon as you buy it. your satisfaction, re-turn or exchange it immediately.

Food & Supplie

1. Put together (or buy) a 72-hour emergency kit for each family member (or the number of people you estimate your congregation can care for in an emergency): Nine meals, nine sealed water pouches, light-weight thermal blanket and poncho, 1 change of basic clothes, small first-aid kit, lighter, candle, Sterno, pocketknife, pocket Tenakh (bible) & Siddur (prayerbook) [no matter what your religious beliefs, at minimum these books are among the most amazing collections of powerful literature and teaching that exist in pocket format; great if you need something to read!], perhaps one other pocket-book, pen, mini-notebook, toothbrush, paste, soap, comb, 1/2-roll toilet paper).

2. Map your family's actual needs for the following items, for two to four weeks:

Bread, cereal, rice, and pastaVegetables; where possible, note canned versus fresh versus frozen Fruits; again, note canned, fresh, or frozenDairy products: milk, cheese, yogurt, butter Other proteins: meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nutsFats, oils, sweetsToilet paperTampons, pads, etc.Soap, shampoo, etc.Cosmetics, etc.

4. Build up a one-month supply of these items for each person. Buy room-temperature equivalents or replacements (e.g., powered or sterilized milk). Keep using what you've stored and as you do, keep replacing it. Include spices and flavorings.

Vary types of food storage: bulk, freeze-dried, canned; include baking necessities (oil, yeast, baking power and soda, shortening).

Include vitamins, especially for kids.

Include quick and easy "psychological" foods: snacks, desserts.

Build a one-month's supply of everything, and then move on to a two-months' supply, and so on.

Invest in quality storage containers. For food that isn't in presealed containers (cans, cartons, etc.), check it monthly for spoilage or infestation.

Replace what you use as soon as possible.

As you rotate through the food you're storing, look for the items you avoid or never use. Make a deliberate effort to use them. If you just cannot or don't want to, then they probably shouldn't be in your storage. Find something that you are willing to use that will replace them.

Workplace and Congregation

1. Find out who is responsible for all of Y2K at your company or congregation. Then find out what they have to say (internal and confidential) about how your company's Y2K effort is progressing.

2. If there is a Y2K contingency planning team associated with your department, find out who's on it and befriend them. Ask them lots of questions.

3. Figure out what needs to be done that isn't getting done now. Come up with a plan to fix it.

If you own or run a business or lead a congregation.

1. If you don't have someone in charge of Y2K for your firm, put someone in charge. They should be bright, an excellent organizer, honest, and fearless. Tell them that their top priority is Y2K remediation of the company. Make sure they understand all that it entails.

Get a good book on Y2K and business. Read it.

Make sure your highest staff understand that Y2K is a top priority and that they are to cooperate with the person in charge of Y2K.

Get weekly reports until it's done. Ask questions.

Recognize that change in individuals almost never comes as the aftermath of a single, well-done, logical and valid presentation; people al-most never slap their foreheads and say, "Oh, I understand now! I'll change right away." Effecting change is more like steering a supertanker: You start miles ahead of time and you keep the wheel held over for a long time.


Stop incurring debt. Put all your credit cards away; use checks, cash, or check cards to pay for everything. Consider seriously before you purchase a car, home, or similar big-ticket item.

1. Make a list of all your income, assets, debts, and obligations: employment, bank accounts, credit cards, mortgag-es, investments, real estate, cars, and so on. For each one, do the following:

2. Create and label a folder and put all papers related to that income source or asset in there.

3. Take a note card or blank sheet of paper and make a list of the tasks to do for that item in preparation for Y2K: documents to request, things that you need to have done, changes to make. Put that in the folder.

4. Sort the folders in order of priority based on your needs and concerns. Start working through the folders in that order. For each folder:

Take out the list of tasks. Do as many as you can, checking them off as you complete them, but do at least one. If you write or receive any letters, keep copies in the file. As you get updated documents, put them in the file. As you think of or discover new tasks to do, add them to the list.

5. Get a separate, portable file box; one that you can grab and take out of the house in case of fire or fiood. Use this as your identity box. For you and each family member, build a file with key identity documents: birth certificate, Social Security card, immunization record, Selective Service card, passport, voter registration card, photocopy of driver's license, appropriate legal documents (will, trust, power of attorney, living will), credit bureau reports, and so on. Get copies of the documents that you don't have on hand.

Family, Community, Nation

1. Set aside one night a week for family discussion and activities, both serious and fun.

2. Get to know ten of your neighbors whom you don't already know.

3. Find out when the city (county) council meets. Attend. Raise an issue about Y2K. Ask the council specifically what the local government has and has not checked.

4. Contact your Senators and your Congressiperson and ask them about Year 2000 issues and any committees that they are on that might be holding hearings about Y2K. Let them know about your concerns and your desire for more national leadership and exposure on the subject. You can track down contact information via the Senate and House Web sites.

Write the President a letter expressing those same concerns. His address is The President of the United States, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20500.You can also use his e-mail address (, call (202/456-1414), or fax (202/456-2461).

-Always understate. It's easier to document and prove an understated assertion.

-Change comes slowly. Be patient, but persistent.

Finally, as we approach January 2000 and our experience in dealing with Y2K grows, we will need to alert people to continuous flows of information, changed as the situation changes. See the World Wide Web at:;;;;;


* Adapted by The Shalom Center (Website; Email; phone 914/626-7272) from passages in Bruce F. Webster, The Y2K Survival Guide (Prentice Hall).