Hurricane Katrina survivors looking to apply online to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance better make sure they're running Microsoft's Windows operating system and using Internet Explorer Version 6 or higher. IE 6 is required for the aid applications, according to information on FEMA's Web site.
That means people using Macintosh or Linux computers are unable to file a claim online -- although they can do so by calling the emergency agency by phone. A statement online says: "If you would like to apply for Federal Disaster Assistance by telephone, you can contact us at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or for the hearing/speech impaired at TTY: 1-800-462-7585. The current hours and days of operation are 24 hours per day 7 days per week. Currently the lines are quite congested and the best time to call is 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. EDT."
The FEMA limitations for non-Windows users prompted one user, Gary Mullins, to weigh in on the issue on Monday at the MacInTouch Web site.
"My 90-year old mother sat out Katrina in her brother's home next door in Diamondhead, MS, about eight miles from the Mississippi coast where the hurricane's eye hit. They survived without injury, but with massive destruction to their homes, and my mother has lost most of her possessions. I brought her to my home in California yesterday and this morning went to the FEMA Web site to register to start the assistance process.
"To my dismay, our federal emergency agency requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 6, and only IE 6, to use the Web site for disaster assistance. I don't want to be political about this, but this smacks of a serious leadership failure that the use of the Internet is reserved for only the Windows community. I will reserve my opinion of the administration for the op-ed pages, but I want to vent my dismay about this to the rest of the Mac community. I hope other Mac users let their political reps, newspapers and other media know of this marginalization."
A Computerworld Mac user who tried to access the FEMA registration site was unable to do so.
Asked about the online limitation, a FEMA spokeswoman said the agency is aware of the problem and has asked its IT department to address it. Further attempts to reach FEMA's IT unit for more specific information were unsuccessful this afternoon.
Last month, the World Wide Web Consortium protested a proposal by the U.S. Copyright Office that could temporarily require online forms to be submitted using only the Internet Explorer or Netscape Web browsers.