[LINK] Disaster Management and Continuation of Service Using the Web

Tom Worthington Tom.Worthington at tomw.net.au
Thu Mar 1 09:22:56 AEDT 2007

Storms on 27 February 2007 
<http://www.abc.net.au/news/items/200702/1859793.htm?act> damaged 70 
buildings on the Australian National University campus in Canberra 
<http://billboard.anu.edu.au/news_view.asp?id=12360>. The campus was 
closed for the remainder of the week, with most lectures, tutorials 
and laboratory sessions cancelled. A positive note in this is that 
the ANU's Internet systems continued to function, so that staff and 
students could be kept up to date via email and the web.

ANU Medical School students had the Medonline system to keep them informed:

"MedOnline is the staff and student interface to the web based 
curriculum that the Medical School is delivering for the Medical 
Degree. This interface allows access to the Problem Based Learning 
cases that are being delivered each week. MedOnline also provides a 
wide range of other resources and tools that the staff and students 
will be utilizing in order to support their teaching and learning." 

Other students had access to the web based discussion forums, course 
notes and digital audio of lectures. These were not intended for 
distance education, but to supplement face-to-face teaching. However, 
having that material online and available when the campus is closed 
allows the students to keep in touch and access materials.

This is something organisations need to think about. Apart from storm 
damage, staff might be unable to use their offices for an extended 
period in the event of an outbreak of Bird Flu 
<http://www.tomw.net.au/2005/wd/birdflu.shtml>. How much of the 
business of the organisation could keep functioning via the Internet, 
if staff could not go to the office (or assemble in groups anywhere)?

Unfortunately the information on the ACT government web site on storm 
damage is less easy to use. Two reports on damage to government 
and libraries 
are in the form of Ms Word and PDF documents. This makes the download 
much larger and slows the public's access to the information. These 
should have been provided as simple, small HTML web pages.

After the 2003 Canberra Firestorm 
I provided some advice on emergency web design to a conference in 
One of my students did research and reported on how to assess the 
success of emergency 
The results were published online and government officials invited to 
the talks.

Experts may argue over the detail on how to design emergency web 
sites. However, their duty of care to the citizens should not be in 
dispute. IT professionals and web designers, including those employed 
as contractors, have a professional and legal responsibility. It is 
not a valid defence to say that their bosses did not give approval or 
adequate resources. After the next major emergency, the adequacy of 
online systems will be examined. Professionals will have to explain 
in court any deaths, injuries or major economic loss they contributed 
to though inadequate web sites.

Tom Worthington FACS HLM tom.worthington at tomw.net.au Ph: 0419 496150
Director, Tomw Communications Pty Ltd           ABN: 17 088 714 309
http://www.tomw.net.au              PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617  

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