Portals for COOP

GCN Insider | Trends & technologies that affect the way government does IT

Due to last year's string of devastating hurricanes, NASA found a new use for its employee portal'as a hub for continuity of operations. During Hurricane Katrina, employees at the Johnson Space Center in Houston were forced to evacuate. The agency's employee portal, InsideNASA (http://insideNASA.nasa.gov), provided phone check-in numbers as well as information on the best routes of egress and even which gas stations still had fuel.

'We couldn't have predicted we needed that information, but it only took us a few moments to make all the connections,' said Jeanne Holm, chief knowledge architect at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Holm leads the InsideNASA management team, which operates out of Pasadena, Calif. Being far from the actual area of impact worked well for the team, Holm said. Free from the stress of beingcaught up in the disaster themselves, they were able to focus on what the affected NASA employees needed. For instance, the team called oil companies to find out which gas stations were getting fresh deliveries.

A COOP portal can help in a number of ways, Holm said. The agency uses the Vignette Portal software from Vignette Corp. of Austin, Texas, which lets employees check in via the Web and work from any Internet or virtual private network connection. Portals such as NASA's can also host threaded discussions and photos of damaged areas. The software also provides the flexibility to quickly add sections, or 'portlets' to convey new information and handle new responsibilities, Holm said. Supporting software archives the information, showing what was posted and when.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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