Check lifts, alarms and door entry systems for affected chips.
The millennium bug may affect more than the computer systems of many small businesses. Employees coming to work after the New Year could well find the buildings that they work in have shut down. This is because any piece of equipment containing a computer chip could be affected by the bug. The vital thing is to find out what will be affected and to decide whether or not the business can do without it.
Where businesses occupy their own premises, rather than sharing a larger building, year 2000 compliance will be their responsibility. Astute managers will review all of their systems and draw up a list of those that are likely to have a computer chip controlling them. These typically might include lifts, alarms, door entry systems, automatic lighting, heating and air conditioning systems and, of course, computers.
They should then write to the supplier/manufacturer of each piece of equipment and request an assurance that the model is compliant. Most reputable manufacturers will be happy to put such a confirmation in writing. Where they do not, however, managers must assume that the system involved will not work and must plan accordingly. Can doors be opened with a key? Can the central heating boiler be manually overridden?
In a large building shared by several companies, this task may fall to the landlord or its agent. Most professional managing agents should already have written to their commercial tenants explaining about the millennium bug, which parts of their building may be affected and what the landlord plans to do about it. If they have not, then the tenant should ask which systems they are checking. Large buildings are likely to contain more vulnerable equipment. A 20-storey walk up the stairs to a freezing office will be nobody's idea of a happy new year.
Action is essential now. Year 2000 solutions will become increas-ingly expensive next year as demand soars for compliant parts and the contractors to fit them. Emergency remedial work on New Year's Day will be extortionate.