In times of crisis, the public rely on emergency services, government organisations and charities to share critical information as quickly as possible, frequently via Twitter.
And from today, we’re making it easier for those organisations to get that critical information to the right people at the right time with the launch of Twitter Alerts in the UK and Ireland.
57 accounts have signed up for the programme, including the UK’s 47 police forces, An Garda Síochána, the London Fire Brigade, the Mayor of London’s office, the Foreign Office, CEOP and the Environment Agency. A full list of participating organisations can be found here.
From today, these organisations will now be able to highlight critical information to their Twitter followers by marking Tweets as alerts, which highlight a Tweet with an orange bell for added visibility.
Twitter users who sign up for an account’s Twitter Alerts will receive a notification directly to their phone via SMS. Users of Twitter for iPhone or Twitter for Android will also receive a push notification direct to their mobile. Here’s how an alert appears via SMS message and push notification:
To subscribe to these notifications, Twitter users can go directly to an account’s alert setup page at twitter.com/[username]/alerts. See the Metropolitan Police’s page at twitter.com/metpoliceuk/alerts for an example.
While participating organisations choose what information merits a Twitter Alerts designation, this feature is intended for crisis, disaster and emergency communications.
Twitter in times of emergency
We know from our users how important it is to be able to receive reliable information during times of crisis. With that in mind, last year we announced Lifeline (a feature that helps Japanese users find emergency accounts during crises), and since then, we’ve been working on a related feature for people around the world.
Twitter Alerts, which comes to the UK and Ireland today, launched with a number of participating organisations in the U.S., Japan and Korea in September 2013. Since launching, the service has been used by international organisations to disseminate information during emergencies involving public safety, accessibility and bad weather.
For example, the Senate Sergeant at Arms, responsible for security and safety at the U.S. Senate, sent out a Twitter alert when news of a runaway car and shooting broke and a “shelter in place” order was issued:
USCP investigating reports of gunshots on Capitol Hill. If in a #Senate office, shelter in place. If not go to nearest office. #alert— SenateSergeantAtArms ( @SenateSAA) October 3, 2013
UK and Ireland
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 important and accurate information during emergencies, natural disasters or when other communications services aren’t accessible.
Commander David Martin, in charge of emergency planning for the Metropolitan Police Service, said: “Getting fast and accurate information to the public in a major incident or terrorist attack really could make a life-saving difference.
“Using social networking sites, including Twitter, gives us additional ways to talk directly to the public. Twitter Alerts means that our messages will stand out when it most matters.”
John Curtin, Head of Incident Management at the Environment Agency said: “Digital communications is enhancing the way we share warning information during an incident. During an incident such as flooding, we see significant spikes in related conversation.
“Twitter Alerts provide an excellent opportunity to increase the visibility and urgency of our most vital warning messages so that people can take action to protect themselves and their property.”
Rita Dexter, Deputy Commissioner for the London Fire Brigade, said: “People act on information shared on social media. During a major incident accurate, verified and frequent updates are essential. Twitter Alerts will help us communicate quickly during a significant emergency.”
*To receive Twitter Alerts as push notifications, you must be using Twitter for iPhone version 5.10 or higher, and Twitter for Android 4.1.6 or higher.