Download, burn, and boot: doing disaster IT with a shelter lab LiveCD build

OK, this is a great idea: A Live CD designed with emergency first responders in mind. In the IT setting within the eye of a disaster, having something like the shelter lab LiveCD build could be a really huge help in a crunch.


One of the most unexpected and least visible aspects of hurricane Katrina’s aftermath was the critical role that information technology played in the relief effort. Throughout the Gulf Coast, shelter workers and residents built and used improvised computer labs consisting of donated, Internet-connected PCs and printers. These hastily implemented labs were used by survivors for a variety of important tasks, like registering for federal aid, searching for jobs and housing, preparing résumés, completing homework assignments, and searching for lost loved ones.

I spent the two weeks after Katrina struck working with volunteers in Lake Charles, Louisiana and across the Internet to build, maintain, and upgrade such labs in two of southwest Louisiana’s largest Red Cross shelters. The present article is a short introduction to one of the most important categories of tools to emerge from the efforts of myself and others to meet the shelters’ need for free, zero-maintenance, bulletproof, Internet-connected computers: the shelter lab LiveCD build. [Read the rest]