Web Helps Cities And Businesses Cope With Blackout - InformationWeek

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Web Helps Cities And Businesses Cope With Blackout

New York City and several major financial organizations were among those able to use the Internet to get their messages out despite the blackout.

Forget for a minute about E-commerce and business transactions and remember that one of the greatest benefits of the Web is the ability to communicate with people. Amid the chaos of the biggest power outage in history on Thursday, some organizations and companies used the Web effectively to help keep their citizens and customers informed.

Residents of the New York metropolitan area who lacked electricity but had access to a battery-powered laptop could go to the City of New York's Web site and watch video of news conferences Mayor Michael Bloomberg held Thursday night and Friday morning, with the option of 56K or 300K speeds. In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, city IT officials have worked to improve the city's Web site, with the goal of making it a better forum for communicating in the event of future disasters.

Those efforts appeared successful late Thursday night and into Friday. The site told citizens to keep calm and stay at home, offered instructions on keeping cool in the 90-degree heat, and warned of dangers such as using generators indoors, which can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. A ticker on the upper right-hand corner of the site carried a series of up-to-date bulletins about transportation services and changes to some parking laws for Friday.

However, officials in Cleveland and Detroit apparently didn't have any way to communicate with affected residents, other than through news broadcasts that could be heard on portable radios. By late Friday morning, both cities' Web sites were still down.

Some Manhattan-based financial institutions used their Web sites to communicate with customers and employees. Merrill Lynch posted a bulletin saying it wanted to "assure our clients inside and outside the United States that no trading information was lost in the blackout and all assets are safe and secure," and said it expected to be open Friday morning. The Web sites of two other notable Manhattan financial institutions--J.P. Morgan Chase and Marsh & McLennan--appeared to be functioning well but made no mention of the power outage. Lehman Brothers used a ticker on its Web site to inform employees and customers that it planned to have its New York locations operating on Friday.

On Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange's Web site posted a brief statement informing it would be open Friday, and featured a story and photo of Bloomberg ringing the opening bell, with a link to the city's Web site. Nasdaq's Web site had a small note that the exchange would be open on Friday and included feeds from Dow Jones news service, including stories about the power outage and its effects.

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