Twitter Alerts come to Australia

In times of crisis, the public rely on emergency services, government organisations and charities to share critical information as quickly as possible. With the launch of Twitter Alerts in Australia today, we’re making it easier for those organisations to get that critical information to the right people at the right time.

It’s a new system which will be used by such public organisations as police and fire rescue services to send critical information to people during emergencies and natural disasters.

More than a dozen organisations have signed up to the Twitter Alerts programme to date, including the Australian state police force from five states, several state fire services, the Red Cross, and key national and local government departments. The full list of participating public institutes and their Twitter handles for today’s launch includes:

Twitter Alerts launched in the U.S., Japan and Korea in September, followed by the UK and Ireland in November, and have already been used in a number of emergency situations. For example, in the UK, the Environmental Agency (@EnvAgency) and Essex Police (@EssexPoliceUK) both used Twitter Alerts this month to warn residents of flooding risks:

We have made this service available because it’s important for our users to be able to receive reliable information during times of immediate crisis. All of the organisations participating in today’s launch already use Twitter as a tool to communicate important information to their followers. The added functionality of Twitter Alerts will help them reach their followers with fast, credible and accurate information during emergencies, natural disasters or when other communications services aren’t accessible.

Organisations will be able to share critical information with their followers by marking Tweets as “alerts” which will feature an orange bell for added visibility. Participating organisations will choose for themselves what information merits a Twitter Alert designation; this feature is only intended for crisis, disaster and emergency communications.

After signing up to receive alerts from an organization, users can elect to have Twitter Alerts delivered as SMS notifications directly to a mobile device. Those on iPhone or Android can opt for push notifications instead of SMS alerts.

To subscribe to these notifications, Twitter users can go directly to an account’s alert set-up page at twitter.com/[username]/alerts using a desktop/laptop PC or iOS and Android mobile device. The NSW Police page, for example, is twitter.com/nswpolice/alerts.

As Rob Rogers, Deputy Commissioner for the NSW Rural Fire Service says:

“The NSW RFS uses Twitter not only to push out information and warnings to the community during major bushfire emergencies, but also as an intelligence tool, pulling information in which can assist with the firefighting effort.

During the October bushfires, we saw more than 20 million impressions and 18,300 retweets of NSW RFS messages, and an incredible 470 million impressions of #nswfires on Twitter. Twitter Alerts gives us another way of delivering important safety information, directly to people when they need it most.”

Catherine Burns, Deputy Commissioner (Specialist) from the NSW Police says:

“The NSW Police Force tweets about 15 times a day, with information that can help the community, or where the community can help us solve or prevent crime. These tweets are often of an urgent nature such as natural disasters, abducted child alerts, major traffic chaos or road closures. Timely information can help save lives, reduce mayhem or prevent crime, so Twitter Alerts will be a useful tool in our communication strategy.

It is very helpful for the public to have instant access to such time-critical information, delivered directly to their mobile phones, and we congratulate Twitter for making this service available to the NSW Police and other emergency services.”

Brisbane City Council Lord Mayor Graham Quirk says that the new service may ensure that the Council can deliver time-critical messages to residents in a responsive manner:

“We have successfully used Twitter in previous crisis situations, including the January 2011 floods and more recent 2013 Australia Day storms, and this new feature complements our existing social media use and will help us engage with and keep our residents informed during emergencies.”

Andrew Coghlan, National Manager, Emergency Services, Australian Red Cross says:

“In a disaster, more and more people depend on social media as a main news source. Twitter Alerts is a great innovation that prioritises emergency alerts in subscribers’ Twitter feed, ensuring people have the most up to date information. Red Cross has found Twitter Alerts to be very effective in other countries during emergencies and we believe it will be invaluable to Australians during an emergency or disaster.

The Australian Red Cross will mainly use Twitter Alerts to encourage people to register with the Register.Find.Reunite. service which helps find and reunite family, friends and loved ones during a disaster.”

Greg Mullins AFSM, Fire & Rescue NSW Commissioner said:

“There are a number of existing ways emergency services, including Fire & Rescue NSW, alert the community to danger, or provide important information during critical incidents. Twitter Alerts will ensure verified FRNSW information and updates regarding incidents are prominently available via @FRNSW. Fire & Rescue NSW is an active user of Twitter. It is a rapid way of letting the community and media know about incidents that our firefighters are attending via @FRNSW. Twitter Alerts will enhance this by ensuring we get information and updates out quickly during critical situations around NSW.

Fire & Rescue NSW uses Twitter to ‘push’ other essential information and products via @FRNSW. The FRNSW Media Team regularly provide links to stories and important information, audio, photos and video from incidents – providing accurate information to the community and media when it counts.”

Mark Bayly, Online Communications Manager for Victoria Police said:

“We believe Twitter Alerts will be of enormous benefit in providing the community with targeted, real time updates in times of an emergency.”

UPDATE (10/02/2014): Since launching Twitter Alerts in Australia in December, @TasAlert, @ACT_ESA, @QldFES, @NSWSES and @ACTPolicing have also joined the program.

Learn more about using Twitter Alerts.