Energy CIO: Communicate by any means necessary

Dept. of Energy CIO says plans are needed for powerless communications in emergencies, and commonsense overrides policy.

Rose Parkes, the Dept. of Energy's CIO and former CIO at FEMA, said she learned several important lessons from Hurrican Katrina, where DOE personnel helped identify fuel sources for first responders, Federal Computer Week reports.

First, information sharing should be done by any means possible, “from smoke signals to satellite phones,” as one colleague told her. Also, when there’s no power, there is no information technology, so there also has to be a Plan B that doesn't rely on IT.

Finally, she said the employees told her that common sense overrides policies, procedures and rules.

That's a lesson that FEMA should have learned. Stories keep coming out that FEMA applied red tape to stop ready, willing and able volunteers from helping out in the emergency.  Parkes said:

FEMA would likely look at the lessons learned from Katrina and lead a federal effort to improve how emergency response works when no electrical infrastructure and communications are available.

Looks like we'll find out soon enough. Hurricane Rita is due Friday at  midnight.