DHS urges agency coordination for swine flu data

Web managers should follow a few simple rules to keep public informed

Although agencies may be eager to post the information they may have about the swine flu outbreak on their Web sites, they should follow a few simple rules so that government information can be conveyed as clearly as possible to the public, according to officials from the Homeland Security and Health and Human Services departments.

Gwynne Kostin, director of new media for DHS, and Richard Stapleton of HHS, made impromptu appearances at the Government Web Managers Conference being held this week in Washington to explain how federal, state and local agencies could act in concert to get the word out about the crisis. DHS is acting as coordinating body for all federal agencies involved in the outbreak.

At the conference, Kostin and Stapleton urged agencies to follow a number of simple rules:

  • Agencies should only post information that is in its own domain: Agencies need to stay in their information lanes, Kostin advised. This means introducing original information on their Web sites only if that information falls under their area of expertise. An agency that may be closing buildings should only post information on its site about the building closing. A travel agency should only post information pertinent to changes in travel brought about because of flu concerns. To convey addition flu information, the agency should link back to the originating agency.
  • Use the HHS widget on the swine flu page: HHS is providing up-to-the-minute data about the flu outbreak on a widget, which can be placed on any Web site by a simply cutting the code from the HHS site and pasting it on the target site. The widget comes in two sizes, small (150 pixels) and large (200 pixels), and is available in English and Spanish. Stapleton warned against making any changes to the widget, as the content HHS posts on the widget is frequently updated. A static widget will be out-of-date within a few hours, he said.
  • An agency's swine flu page should have a uniform Web address: For agencies creating swine flu-related Web sites, the page should be at the location "http://www.[agency domain].gov/swineflu." In this way, agencies will have a consistent navigation pattern and be easier to find for other agencies as well as for search engines.

About the Author

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

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Reader Comments

Tue, May 5, 2009 Arlington, VA

Interesting that we are supposed to use the naming convention "http://www.[agency domain].gov/swineflu. since we were instructed to not even call it swine flu. Additionally, "up to date" from DHS and HHS is questionable since they never moved the Federal Response Stage off of zero (limited animal transmission) this entire time, basically ignoring the human to human transmission within the US. Why have a plan or planning stages if they are just going to be ignored?

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