Wednesday, October 05, 2005

FEMA's web site is as well run as FEMA

I picked up the following from the RISKS digest. (RISKS digest is a newsgroup, with web digest, dealing with the risks of using computers.) Apparently FEMA's web site only works if you use Microsoft Internet Explorer, and it only barely works when you use that! This post is by Douglas Jones.

The FEMA web portal violates a number of good web usage guidelines. The first page at is fixed-width, not conforming to the user's browser window. Things get worse from there.

The web page is a mess when viewed under iCab, my preferred web browser, the browser spent what seemed an eternity blinking from grey to white and back again before stabilizing with content. When I clicked on Register for Assistance, it went back to blinking and kept it up for so long that I gave up.

When I repeated the exercise under Safari, Clicking on Register for Assistance, which takes me to I got the following error message:

500 Internal Server Error
Servlet error: java.lang.ClassNotFoundException:

When I tried it under IE, it got farther, letting me through an automated test to distinguish humans from bots, but then it gave me the message:

Integrated Security Access and Control (ISAAC) Unavailable Your request cannot be processed because the ISAAC system is unavailable. Please try again later or contact the FEMA Helpline at the number listed below.

So, it's clear to me that they've engineered a web system that is:
a) Extraordinarily over-engineered to work under only one browser,
b) Nonfunctional under that browser,

This, I conclude, is simply another example of FEMA incompetence.
You can read the RISKS digest at

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