FEMA sends Gustav alerts

With Hurricane Gustav set to make landfall somewhere along the Gulf Coast early next week, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are using digital subscription management services to let residents in six states know what the government is doing to prepare for the storm and how they can apply for relief.

FEMA has also created a page on the agency's Web site to keep residents informed about the status of the storm and the government's preparations, said Gene Luke, an emergency management specialist at FEMA.

Gustav battered the island of Jamaica today and is expected to turn into a Category 3 storm by the time it reaches Cuba on Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm could make landfall from Corpus Christi, Texas, eastward to Panama City, Fla., on Monday or Tuesday.

Since September 2007, FEMA has offered a service that enables people to sign up to receive e-mail messages when urgent situations arise. The service is powered by GovDelivery, which specializes in e-mail and digital subscription services for the public sector.

FEMA is sending e-mail updates to subscribers of the service in Gulf Coast states who have requested to receive press releases and even subscribers who haven't elected to receive them, Luke said. Some subscribers sign up for the free service only for emergency notifications and disaster declarations but not for news releases, he added.

Typically, the updates include a few sentences about the press release and a link to more information.

FEMA is sending press releases on critical items regarding Gustav, he said, adding that the agency does not want to inundate people with information. FEMA has more than 10,000 subscribers in the Gulf Coast region. The agency is requesting that subscribers forward the information to family and friends in the region.

Other agencies that use the GovDelivery platform include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and Treasury departments.

Subscribers to FEMA's service can choose to receive information in 96 specialized areas, including material from CDC, Customs and Border Protection, DHS and the Transportation Security Administration. Officials said FEMA's service has 88,000 subscribers in the United States.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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