ReallyReady Really Better Than Ready.gov

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The Department of Homeland Security developed the Ready.gov website as a disaster preparedness information point of presence; one member of the Federation of American Scientists initiated a challenge to improve on the Department’s work.

Cory Doctorow blogged on BoingBoing about a project initiated at the Federation of American Scientists. Michael Stebbins serves as the FAS directory of biology policy; he has also authored Sex Drugs and DNA: Sciences Taboos Confronted.

Stebbins told Doctorow of the work performed by Stebbins’ summer intern at FAS, Emily Hesaltine, who produced a revised version of Ready.gov in two months. The new site, ReallyReady.org, does away with a number of perceived failings of the government website.

Those failings have been described at length in an analysis posted at FAS. Some DHS material was too generic, too wordy, or overly repetitive in its presentation. Hesaltine identified several areas of Ready.gov that needed an update, including pages for disabled and special needs people, nuclear threats, and influenza pandemics.

A site update at Ready.gov announced by DHS did not impress Stebbins at all:

Last week, they issued a press release announcing that it had updated Ready.gov with “special preparedness information for pet owners, senior citizens, and individuals with disabilities and special needs,” and “increased state and local information.” Through a meticulous comparison of the new Ready.gov to a version archived in early June, the Federation of American Scientists found that the changes are largely cosmetic including a shift to a swanky new green theme.

Stebbins found some good to DHS’ update, but not nearly enough to address the issues that Hesaltine fixed with ReallyReady.org:

For example, “Quickly assess the situation,” the first instruction for responding to a nuclear attack, is an innate response that does not need to be dictated to concerned citizens. If Ready.gov really aims to prepare the American public for natural disasters and terrorist attacks, more than updating a few pages and changing the color scheme needs to be done.

And speaking of colors, Ready.gov does not display the color-coded Threat Advisory on the risk of terrorist attacks that DHS.gov has on its site. That seemed like an odd omission to Stebbins, especially with “National Preparedness Month” coming up in September.

Oh, and Ready.gov was built with taxpayer money covering the expenses.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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