FEMA: Mac users drop dead – Hurricane Katrina online assistance site is Windows only [UPDATED]

“The good news: If you’ve survived Hurricane Katrina, the government will let you register for help online. The bad news: But only if the computer you’re using is running Windows,” Gary Krakow reports for MSNBC.

“Yes, it turns out that to make a claim with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Individual Assistance Center, your Web browser must be Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6 or higher and you must have JavaScript enabled. It even says so right on the page itself. One problem: IE6 isn’t available for Macintosh or Linux computers,” Krakow reports. “The safest way for non-Windows users to register for assistance is to call FEMA directly at 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362) or for the hearing/speech impaired at TTY: 1-800-462-7585. FEMA says the phone lines are staffed 24/7.”

Full article here.

Ars Technica reports that this IE-only situation “has become a considerable problem for relief workers, who are attempting to setup as many kiosks as possible for refugees. Workers on the ground have told Ars Technica that they would prefer to avoid setting up Windows XP workstations because they take longer to setup, and even longer to properly patch and configure for use. You may recall that in an experiment performed last year, a Windows XP SP1 box put on the Internet was compromised in 4 minutes flat. While Service Pack 2 and recent updates undoubtedly improve XP’s defenses, techs are wary of using the OS in this situation.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: More short-sighted Windows-only bullshit from the U.S government. Don’t bug FEMA right now, they’ve got enough problems. Complain to your congressperson and/or your senator:

Contacting Congressperson: http://www.house.gov/writerep/
Contacting Senators: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

[UPDATE 9/7, 9:24am ET: added Ars text and link.]

Related articles:
Donate to The American Red Cross Hurricane 2005 Relief fund to help Hurricane Katrina victims – September 03, 2005
World Wide Web Consortium objects to US Copyright Office’s Internet Explorer-only browser plan – August 25, 2005
U.S. Copyright Office: Use only the world’s most insecure browser to secure your copyright – August 17, 2005
U.S. Copyright Office: is it okay if our new website only works with Internet Explorer? – August 11, 2005
Survey identifies strong demand for Macintosh and Firefox web conferencing support – August 11, 2005
Using Apple’s Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger’s included fax capabiltes – July 22, 2005
Security report shows Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was unsafe for all but seven days of 2004 – March 22, 2005
Penn State’s IT Services recommends dumping Microsoft Internet Explorer immediately – December 09, 2004
Security expert: Don’t use Microsoft Windows, Office, Outlook, Internet Explorer – December 09, 2004
German Federal Office for Information Security: Internet users should ditch Internet Explorer – September 13, 2004
Web Standards Project: Abandon Microsoft Internet Explorer and ‘Browse Happy’ – August 25, 2004
Security expert: Microsoft Internet Explorer ‘just cannot be trusted, use alternate browser’ – July 02, 2004
Security firm warns of new Internet Explorer flaw, advises ‘use a different browser’ – July 01, 2004
Microsoft axes Internet Explorer for Mac – June 13, 2003


  1. emaN:

    No, it isn’t. Java is, as distributed by Sun, multi-platform. Unless of course you use the bastardized version MS developed AGAINST the liscense agreement they had with Sun. EULA’s are only enforceable on individuals, but not always on corporations.

  2. Contact the folks at W3C and tell them about FEMA “IE only policy”

    They are very interested in supporting universal web standards than a strictly proprietary one. They make thier point intelligently, instead of some 20 year old Machead rant.

    But do complain that your a Mac user and IE doesn’t exist on your platform and to please support universal web standards set by the W3C.


  3. Playful jabs at MDN aside, that title is too much. Consider how life-altering this disaster is. Consider that a computer is the last thing on most people’s minds. Consider the choice of operating system is even less of a concern. Well… maybe just take some time to consider before doing anything actually.

    And all you jackasses jumping on the MDN’s witch hunt style of news commentary/reporting should be ashamed of yourselves.

    MDN, you are so full of **** for doing this! How ******* disgusting!

  4. Can someone please tell me WTF super feature a federal emergency site needs so badly that it requires special proprietary technology?

    “Well it is very difficult to make a web-page compatible across different platforms, especially if it uses Java.”

    Why do you need Java to enter a form? Form validation can be done with javascript, Perl, CGI, even PHP. That’s ALL you need for a site like this. You don’t need ActiveX or Java or Flash or weird crap just to register yourself into a web database. That’s ridiculous and it just screams “short-sighted management and lazy programming”

    I helped write a validation engine with just one other person for an international ecommerce site and it works on Safari, Firefox, and IE (all using the same code). It’s not THAT hard.

  5. Funny thing I looked at the time line for the recent Tsunami. Help was on the way 2 days after as opposed to 5 days after.

    That’s the danger of being the greatest nation on earth, you tend to forget that the greatest is all nations of earth working together.

    Same with the red cross link, maybe you should consider this one.

    It’s “international” a concept I am sure that escapes most navelistic americans. Which is sad.

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