FEMA disaster website IE-only
9/6/2005 2:37:53 PM, by Ken "Caesar" Fisher
As relief workers scramble to provide comfort and succor to the thousands and thousands of people dispossessed by hurricane Katrina, tech relief efforts are hitting snags. Equipment shortages, problems accessing the Internet, and the time it takes to set up computers for refugees to use are all getting in the way of getting people help, but that's not too surprising. This is, after all, a disaster. What is surprising, however, is the fact that the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) online registration site for disaster help is Internet Explorer-only.
While anyone can browse the site, users of non-IE browsers will find this message waiting for them when they attempt to register.
Something so minor has become a considerable problem for relief workers, who are attempting to setup as many kiosks as possible for refugees. Workers on the ground have told Ars Technica that they would prefer to avoid setting up Windows XP work stations because they take longer to setup, and even longer to properly patch and configure for use.
You may recall that in an experiment performed last year, a Windows XP SP1 boxput on the Internet was compromised in 4 minutes flat. While ServicePack 2 and recent updates undoubtedly improve XP's defenses, techs are wary of using the OS in this situation.
Mike Quealy, a FEMA spokesperson, explained to me that they are aware of the issue, and are currently working on a application that supports all of the most popular browsers. Quealy said that the application in question was originally an in-house tool, meant to be used by call center people. Internet Explorer was the official in-house browser, so the application was coded with IE in mind. FEMA apparently decided to make the application public with the advent of last year's Florida hurricanes, and Quealy noted that they had hoped to test a universally supported application just before Katrina hit.As you may know, Hannibal is in Louisiana right now assisting with relief efforts, and we'll continue to bring updates as we get them.