Software/IT Issues Contribute to Katrina Problems



According to a new report from Homeland Security Department Inspector General Richard Skinner, IT shortcomings contributed to the federal government’s failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina. In addition to difficulties with damaged or destroyed communication networks, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) was hampered by lack of a common IT system to collect and distribute information during the response and recovery efforts.


For example, FEMA lacked assessments of what help was needed and what responsive actions were happening and by whom, Skinner said. “DHS should establish a common information management system to consolidate and publish disaster information including incident reports, contact information, duty logs and resources,” the report said.


Furthermore, FEMA’s IT systems for ordering and tracking disaster-relief resources, such as food, water, medical supplies, etc. have been inadequate since 1998. Also noted, is that FEMA does not have a centralized database to coordinate employee training so those with appropriate training are assigned to specific tasks. The agency uses several incompatible systems to track courses for specialized training, which is extremely inefficient.


The Inspector General recommended that FEMA implement a consolidated records system to maintain accurate, up-to-date information on training and tracking.


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