Clinton Casts Safety Net

WASHINGTON (05/02/2000) - Just hours after an earthquake crushes Turkish cities or a typhoon ravages the Philippines, e-mail messages begin trickling into the Federal Emergency Management Agency asking for help, advice and information.

Now the Clinton administration wants to help before disaster strikes.

With an executive order issued April 27, President Clinton established the Global Disaster Information Network, designed to provide information over the Internet on how to plan for and respond to disasters.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been put in charge of the network, and 13 agencies -- including the departments of State and Defense -- have been assigned to a coordinating committee to set it up. They are to use information technology "to increase the effectiveness of our response to foreign disasters," Clinton's order said.

The network should provide information about responding to current disasters and offer advice on minimizing damage from future disasters, said Marc Wolfson, a spokesman for FEMA, one of the agencies on the coordinating committee.

Some of the network's most vital information will be storm warnings, Wolfson said. Disaster planning and response guidance also will be available from the departments of Energy and Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency.

"There's a demand out there" for such assistance, he said. "It amazes me how quickly we start getting e-mail from areas that have been hit" by disasters.

Even after hurricanes or earthquakes have left areas without electricity or phone service, people find ways to get e-mail messages through, Wolfson said.

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