September 9, 1999 is a date that means more to some people than others. Many companies worried that their computers might read 9-9-9-9 as an order to shut down. The Public Service Company of Oklahoma power plant in Jenks feeds electricity to hundreds of homes. If something goes wrong, those homes could lose power. With Y2K around the corner, PSO is testing all computer systems. "We are testing as if our data communications and voice communications systems have gone down," said PSO's Andrea Chancellor. "It's like having a fire drill without a fire."
Wednesday night was pivotal because the calendar was switching to 9-9-99. Programmers often use 4 nines to tell a computer to shut down. If that would happen and computers fail to communicate, workers would have to use radios. "That's kind of what we're testing out to make sure everybody knows the right protocol- how to use the radios correctly so that this information can be given and received properly without mistakes made," said PSO's Byron Moore.
Mistakes could cause billing problems. PSO practiced its back up plan to keep those mistakes from happening. When the clock struck midnight, the crew scanned all systems. This drill is also a dress rehearsal for the most anticipated night of the year - December 31, 1999. On that evening at the stroke of midnight, computers everywhere will recognize the year 2000.
Many computers weren't programmed to read the three zeroes, so thousands of companies across the nation including PSO made the necessary changes and made a plan.
Wednesday night, they put their plan to the test. The crew at the Riverside Power Plant passed the test. But the final exam is still ahead on New Year's Eve. PSO says it's prepped to get an "A" and begin the year 2000 with no problems. Oklahoma Natural Gas did not run any special drills, but says its computers survived the date change without a hitch.