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Simple online disaster communications using RallyPoint

Transformyx' system, presented at Demo 09, gives managers an easy way to track employees and mission-critical data in the aftermath of a disaster.

PALM DESERT, Calif.--If a major earthquake hits San Francisco, where CBS Interactive (CNET News' parent) is based, how would everyone in the company communicate with each other in the aftermath?

If the folks at Transformyx, a Baton Rouge, La., company, have anything to say about it, we'd all be using their technology, an online service called RallyPoint.

The idea behind the service is to make it possible for everyone in an organization to stay in touch with each other and to get all the relevant information they need after any kind of significant disaster strikes, be it an earthquake, a tornado, a flood or anything else.

Being from Louisiana, Transformyx was inspired to create RallyPoint by 2005's Hurricane Katrina. But the lessons learned in that crisis were that companies need to be able to get their employees--especially managers--as much information as possible about what's going on, both with the people involved, and with any mission-critical data.

Transformyx, which presented Monday morning at Demo 09, is positioning RallyPoint as the first end-to-end crisis recovery and communications system. The idea is that by using the online system, anyone in a company affected by a disaster can get simple access to whatever he or she needs to ensure that everyone is accounted for, and to disseminate communications to relevant people.

The service is designed to handle a wide range of data: text, voice, video, and even communications from government agencies.

In any company using RallyPoint, all employees would be given a card they can carry around that provides instructions on how to use the system, meaning that no one has to memorize instructions. That's important given that in a crisis, people are often unable to remember even the most mundane details of their lives.

The system provides employees with a way to check in, notifying managers of their whereabouts, and similarly, gives those managers all the information they need to know about the discrete group of people they're responsible for. Employees and managers alike can upload messages to the system. Managers using the system can use up to 1GB of storage for documents or video.

Like many Web-based services, RallyPoint has a dashboard interface, and one of the things managers handling a crisis will like is that that interface shows the real-time status of their employees, and even a map showing their locations.

Furthermore, any two members using the system can communicate with each other once they've signed in, meaning that no one has to remember any phone numbers or any other ways to get in touch with each other.

Certainly, this system seems valuable, though it obviously relies on everyone using it to have power and Internet access. In a real disaster, like a Katrina-level hurricane or a major earthquake, that kind of access may not be available.

Still, communications are often available even in a crisis, and even when power disappears. And with most people using laptops, it's likely that people would have enough battery life to at least log in to the system.

What would be nice to see with RallyPoint is a personal widget, allowing family members to use it for their own purposes as well.