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October 16, 2013
Tweets With Alarm Bells: Twitter Becomes an Emergency Notification Service
Crisis communication has taken a significant step forward in the form of Twitter Alerts, a system through which crisis-related organizations you follow can tweet about emergencies that may occur. Hopefully, you won't get many of these. But when you do they'll be targeted to emergency response groups you may, possibly, have a stake in. Up to now, we've seen news of Twitter posting emergency information on a random basis. Twitter announced its Alerts last month "as a new way to get accurate and important information when you need it most." This can be a significant contribution to emergency response — it's a great relational contribution by Twitter. 

Alerts from sources you "subscribe" to will be sent to your mobile phone via text messages and will be identified with an orange bell on your Twitter timeline. Crucially, as CIO reported, "Alerts are not designed for important life updates from friends...The system is limited to law enforcement and public safety agencies; emergency management agencies; city and municipal governments and their representatives, county and regional agencies; and state, federal, and national organizations, like the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A complete list of more than 100 participating agencies is available here. Organizations have to enroll in Twitter's alert program to send out alerts."

Twitter's Alerts add important new utility to mobile phones. They're a highly commendable crisis communication move. Be sure your local emergency response groups are participating. 

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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