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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: You recently printed a letter from a reader in Chula Vista, Calif., regarding the "Y2K Hype." While it is indisputable that many are profiting through the Y2K-related sales of merchandise, this is America and, like it or not, when people see a way to make a profit, they are free to take it. We are also free to choose what we purchase.

Thousands of people have gone to great lengths and expense to keep all services, many of which we take for granted, fully operational during the Year 2000 transition. They deserve a standing ovation for their backstage efforts. Hopefully, the sources of any Y2K-related problems will continue to be found quickly and repaired easily.

Both the Red Cross and FEMA have posted emergency preparedness articles on their Web sites with PRACTICAL as well as AFFORDABLE suggestions for all climates. While I agree with the author of the "Y2K Hype" piece (i.e., "stay calm, don't panic, use your head"), proper emergency preparedness can make a world of difference by relieving inconveniences and uncertainty until services are restored. It may even save a life.

No one ever pencils in "possible date with an emergency" on one's calendar, but it makes sense to do so. Jan. 2, 2000, is on the calendar. Why not consider making some preparations -- without the hype?

Since many of the people who need this information may not have access to it via the Internet, here are a few tips from the Red Cross disaster Y2K safety Web site. I hope you'll share it with your readers:

-- Stock supplies such as canned foods, bottled water, instant soups, etc., to last several days.

-- In the event of a power outage, plan to use alternative cooking devices in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. NEVER use liquid-fueled heating and cooking devices without adequate ventilation.

-- Organize your first aid supplies. This includes prescription as well as nonprescription medications.

-- Have plenty of flashlights and batteries on hand. (If you have small children, keep flashlights available for their personal use and safety.) Do NOT use candles alone for emergency lighting.

-- Plan to use extra blankets, coats, hats and gloves to keep warm, NOT gas-fueled appliances such as an oven.

-- Listen to a battery-operated radio to keep yourself informed. Be prepared to relocate to a shelter for protection or warmth if necessary.

-- Check with the emergency service providers in your community BEFORE an emergency arises, particularly if you or a loved one has special needs. -- PAMELA RYAN, WILMETTE, ILL.

DEAR PAMELA: The essay I printed about Y2K has generated letters from readers who thanked me for it, and others who feel I treated the subject too lightly. For the latter, I will add:

My intuition tells me that for many people, Y2K may be the modern-day version of the backyard bomb shelters of the 1950s -- yet the prudent thing to do is to hedge your bets. Unused supplies can be donated later to charities and food banks that feed the needy. Many families are already "emergency prepared" because they live in areas geographically vulnerable to earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes. Those who have not already done so should follow the Boy Scout motto ("Be Prepared") and plan ahead for possible disruptions in the municipal services we take for granted.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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