In collaboration with my post on Emergency Awareness Banners, I think it is also important to mention some of the other issues that arose in Katrina’s aftermath and possible ways to get around these problems (in the near future anyways). As I mentioned before, many relief-related sites in the immediate days after the disaster quickly got swamped (with the Red Cross being a good example of this). Therefore, to alleviate this problem, I thought that it would probably be a good idea to stagger and decentralize the gathering of disaster information so as to distribute the load sharing.
For example, let’s say I’m in a disaster zone and I go online (assuming I can of course). Let’s see the steps I’m envisioning for reporting my situation (that I need help) as simple and uneventful as possible.
1) Go online.
2) See site with Emergency Awareness Banner and click on it (or go to the simple URL shown with the banner).
3) By clicking on the banner, I’m immediately redirected to a parent site that asks me what type of disaster information that I would like to submit or search for. Am I needing rescue help, looking for someone, or reporting I’m ok?
4) By clicking one of the above options, I’m again redirected to another site that immediately shows me a form to submit my information (or what I want to search for if I’m looking for someone).
That’s it. Now the important thing here to realize is that each one of these steps and choices in the process is a totally separate site from the others. This allows each stage to be decentralized and handle its own load because these sites will be bombarded by thousands and thousands of people.
Again the construction of these sites (even though they are only one page each) needs to be as simple, efficient, and low bandwidth as possible. The less steps and clicks to go through, the less frustration on the user and the less load on the server. And once again, web and usability standards could literally save lives here. Yes, we’re talking the 5K Award for emergency sites here.
BTW I’d just like to mention that this is not my ideal approach. It is however a practical and immediately doable approach. With a different way of thinking (i.e. Web 2.0), I would actually like to see every step of this process decentralized across the ENTIRE web. Yes, that’s right. That means you could report a rescue, look for someone, or report you’re ok from ANY website which means the emergency load for the disaster would be decentralized across the entire Web (or at least by anyone participating in the emergency effort).