In case of emergency: use Twitter Alerts

27 Sep 2013

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Communication from official sources is vital at times of natural disasters or public emergencies and, to help keep the information flowing, Twitter has launched a new alerts service for government agencies and emergency responders.

These organisations have been known to make use of Twitter in delivering critical and timely information in the recent past – just think of Superstorm Sandy, the Japanese tsunami and the Boston Marathon bombing.

Twitter Alerts can now be used to send this information to subscribers’ phones as either push notifications or as an SMS. This will happen when an authorised account marks a tweet as an alert. These alerts will also appear on users’ Twitter timelines, where an orange bell will highlight them.

For emergency use only

The feature is intended for crisis, disaster and emergency communications only, though participating organisations can determine themselves what information warrants this designation. Examples include warnings of imminent danger, evacuation instructions, urgent public safety alerts, critical transport and utility outages, and crowd and misinformation management.

If you’re worried about Twitter users taking advantage of this attention-grabbing feature, don’t – Twitter will only allow alerts from credible local, national and international institutions tasked with providing critical information to the general public. Priority access will be given to law enforcement agencies, public safety agencies, emergency management agencies, city and municipal governments, county and regional agencies, and select state and national agencies and NGOs.

Interested organisations must first complete an enrolment form and there are already more than 100 NGOs and government agencies in the US, Japan and South Korea signed up.

Twitter Alerts sign-up - FEMA

An example of a Twitter Alerts sign-up page from @FEMA

Users can sign up to receive Twitter Alerts by visiting an account’s set-up page via twitter.com/[username]/alerts (eg, twitter.com/FEMA/alerts). Users can see what organisations are capable of sending alerts through visiting their profile on the web.

Twitter Alerts notification

The notification that appears on accounts authorised to send Twitter Alerts

Elaine Burke is managing editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com