FEMA creating central site for help

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has begun to manage the creation of a single Web portal for assistance, tentatively named DisasterHelp.gov.

The site is one of the 24 cross-agency e-government initiatives that make up the Bush administration's plan to use technology to better connect with citizens.

The FEMA portal will pull together several stovepiped systems already in use, simplifying services and eliminating duplicates in the process, said Ronald Miller, FEMA's chief information officer, March 6 at the E-Gov Web-Enabled Government conference in Washington, D.C.

"The agencies are going to be completely transparent," Miller said.

Already, FEMA plans to collaborate with the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development, the Social Security Administration and the Small Business Administration.

FEMA also will work with the Red Cross, state and local chief information officers and emergency managers.

"The hard part is trying to figure out how to bring all these pieces together into one seamless, integrated whole," he said.

The technology driving the effort will include a Web portal, a secure extranet, a transaction processing engine, a database and advanced telephone services.

But first, FEMA will build a business case. "Once you've done that the technology is straightforward," Miller said.

Looking ahead, the agency is considering adding kiosks to its disaster centers where people — without other computer access — could use the site.

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