Thursday, January 3, 2013

A New Year's Eve To Remember...

It's January 3rd, 2013.  Amazing.  I remember as a teenager discussing the year 2000 with my friends.  Speaking as a 17 year old who knew nearly everything, as unbelievable as it seemed, I would be 43 years old when the new millenium arrived.  I just couldn't imagine it.  That new millenium came 13 years ago. Where does the time go?

I remember what I did that night.  I was the Captain at the Federal Correctional Institution in Miami, Florida - the chief of security, if you will.  Included in a long list of things, my job included planning, implementing and maintaining security procedures and practices in the prison, which also included being the department head over the correctional officers and lieutenants, physical security (such as fences, alarms, defensive and emergency equipment, etc.), and the safe and orderly operation of the institution.

If you remember way back then, the fear of the Y2K crisis loomed.  It was believed that the changing of the century could cause electronic systems to shut down because of the change from a 2 digit year (99) to a four digit year (2000). There were other threats as well but for those of us who depended on large computer systems to help maintain operations, such as fence alarms, high mast lighting and our internal computer systems, it was a rather serious fear.

So, as midnight approached on December 31st, 1999, I found myself at the institution waiting to see what might happen.  Mind you, I would bet that only Captains (and maybe one or two overzealous Wardens) would do this.  But if my security systems were going to shut down at midnight I was going to be there. The inmates were secured in their cells so there was no fear they would be a problem.  But if our lights went out and our fence alarms went down that would be a problem until those conditions were corrected.

When midnight arrived there was a huge instance of....  nothing.  Everything continued to work as expected.  No loss of power, no loss of lighting, no loss of computer systems.  Everything continued to work as expected - even my staff.  So my trip the the joint was mostly a waste of time.  But I felt OK about being there anyway.

One of the best things about it was the view.  Because FCI Miami is built on earth that was piled up from excavation of a small pond that is now a small lake (inside the compound - and that's a story for another time...), part of the compound sits three to five feet higher than the rest.  And since the trees in all directions have been removed to improve vision all the way around (for security purposes), you can see for miles in any direction.  What I saw while standing there for about 15 minutes after midnight was fireworks in all the little towns and suburbs South of Miami.  I could see Homestead, South Miami, Cutler Ridge and Palmetto Bay.  Several of them had fireworks displays, all of which could be seen from the institution.

I think about that New Year's Eve sometimes as a new year approaches.  I don't know if other Captains did what I did that night but I would bet some did.  And my Warden was perfectly fine with it.  In fact, I think he would have suggested it if I hadn't told him I was going to do it.

Here's hoping that all of you had a great New Year's Eve celebration, a good New Year's Day, and a great year to come!

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