Emily Hesaltine

Emily Hesaltine spent her summer preparing for the worst: nuclear attacks, biological threats, natural disasters, explosions and pandemics. Now she’s ready. Really ready. And she wants you to be ready, too.

Through an internship with the Federation of American Scientists, this third-year systems engineering and economics major developed ReallyReady.org, a new emergency preparedness Web site. Modeled after the Department of Homeland Security’s Ready.gov, which has come under widespread criticism since its debut in 2003, fas.org/reallyready launched in August. The site includes Hesaltine’s in-depth evaluation of the DHS site as well as information on how to prepare and respond to a variety of disasters.

Developed by Hesaltine in just nine weeks, ReallyReady.org addresses the inaccuracies and incomplete information found at Ready.gov. According to Hesaltine, ReallyReady.org “offers clearer and less confusing recommendations for emergency preparedness and response. … [ReallyReady.org] is easier to use and understand.”

“The big problems that we found [on Ready.gov] are inaccurate information, generic advice, redundant details and lengthy descriptions,” Hesaltine told ABC News. For example, the DHS site advises the public to go around a corner in the event of a nuclear explosion nearby. Hesaltine explained, “A small nuclear bomb like one a terrorist would use would probably have a radius of destruction greater than a mile, so going around a corner really wouldn’t really help you that much.”

Since Hesaltine decided to take the government’s Web site to task, she’s been the focus of much media attention. Her story has aired on ABC and CNN. Numerous articles in newspapers and online have featured her work, with headlines such as “Is DHS Site Really Ready? Science Intern Thinks Not” and “20-Year-Old Takes on Homeland Security.”

Hesaltine was one of 13 students to participate in the Engineering School’s Science and Technology Policy Internship this summer.