Site sends out word on Floyd relief

Site sends out word on Floyd relief

By Claire E. House
GCN Staff

As Hurricane Floyd approached the North Carolina coastline in mid-September, the state's systems staff got the word from the governor and emergency office: Build a Web site.

Floyd hit Sept. 16, causing devastating flooding. Irene skirted the coast about a month later, dumping more rain on the ravaged state. Many residents are still battling the lingering effects of the storms.

People began going to the North Carolina Hurricane Floyd Relief Information Web site, at www.state.nc.us/hurricane, for information about road closings, evacuation routes, shelter locations, financial assistance, unemployment compensation, property recovery, debris disposal, health issues, fraud avoidance, book and paper drying, donations and any other information state agencies wanted to share.

People also send e-mail inquiries through the site, which received 1.5 million hits in the five days after Floyd's arrival.''This has really demonstrated to us how essential the role of the webmaster has become to state government, especially in emergency management,' state chief information officer Rick Webb said.

Right this way

Rather than make Internet users figure out which agency sites to visit, the Office of Information Technology Service's Web development team of four created the site as a multiagency portal. It culls data from agencies and links to several agency sites via the state's 100-Mbps backbone, which uses equipment from Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif.

The site runs Netscape Enterprise Server on a dual 200-MHz Sun Microsystems Netra with 256M of RAM, a 15G hard drive and SunSoft Solaris.

The Web team first established a single e-mail address for submitting information. The team gathered information from agencies, along with photos and news articles'and permission to use them'from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and local media.

The team used HomeSite 4.0 from Allaire Corp. of Cambridge, Mass., for Hypertext Markup Language coding. WebRazor from Ulead Systems Inc. of Torrance, Calif., and Adobe Photoshop supported graphics development.

The team also incorporated a Java applet news ticker from OpenCube Technologies of Bangor, Maine, which allows text-based headline editing by staff members who don't necessarily know HTML.

The site grew from a flexible template that accommodates increasing numbers of links and amounts of information but maintains a consistent look and feel. Although the Web team initially organized the site by agency, it switched to a services listing for easier public use.

Always new

'The site has been a work in progress from Day One, which is the exciting thing about this technology. At a moment's notice, you can make changes,' Webb said.

The project's usefulness brought home the need for more rural connectivity in North Carolina, which ranks 45th in the nation in computers per household and 46th in Internet access per household, Webb said. A telephone hotline serves the unconnected.

As Internet use grows, Webb's vision is to have three North Carolina portals on the Web: one for citizens, one for businesses and one for agencies.

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