dramatic increases in workload.  Even the engineers responsible for designing 
and developing NEMIS questioned whether the system could consistently 
manage workloads resulting from multiple, concurrent disasters.  Although 
the Florida hurricanes entailed one of the largest response and recovery efforts 
in FEMA's history, workload volumes from multiple, large disasters in the 
future could far exceed the systems processing levels required to manage the 
2004 incidents.   
Systems Are Old and Not Adaptable to Change 
FEMA's response and recovery applications are custom designed, complex, 
outdated, and difficult to adapt to changing user needs.  As a result, during 
disaster response and recovery operations, FEMA has had to adjust its 
processes to overcome the systems limitations.  For example, ADD was 
designed in such a manner that it cannot be easily updated.  Currently, it is 
difficult to enter into ADD the financial information necessary to issue credit 
cards, commonly known as  supercards,  for emergency response personnel.  
As a result, FEMA officials created separate, stand alone databases to track 
the financial information rather than submit their ADD change requirements 
to the CIO's office for implementation. 
Further, the mail processing center at the National Processing Service Center 
in Hyattsville, Maryland, was unable to handle the surge in letter production 
required during the Florida hurricanes.  FEMA employees select and print 
batches of letters to the victims, categorized by different disaster situations.  
However, this process became difficult during the 2004 hurricanes because of 
the increased volume of letters that had to be prepared.  No provision had 
been made for surge printing capability. 
CIO officials worked to address the letter generation problem.  After 7 to 10 
days of effort, they succeeded in improving the system code, helping to reduce 
the print backlog.  However, a contractor later examined the system code and 
found it to be extremely complex, requiring 20 pages of code to print what 
newer, more efficient code can do in one line.  The contractor recommended 
rewriting the code; the NEMIS development team currently is investigating 
ways to address this issue. 
In addition to revising the system code to address the print backlog, FEMA 
changed the business process, instituting a workaround that involved creating 
one standard letter to send to all disaster victims.  The standard letter helped 
speed up the victim notification process.  However, the letter was too generic, 
did not provide victims the information they needed, and did not clearly 
Emergency Preparedness and Response Could Better Integrate Information Technology  
with Incident Response and Recovery 
Page 25 

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