Users who want to receive emergency notifications via Twitter have to register with relevant accounts
Twitter has brought its Alerts feature to the UK and Ireland, with 57 government and non-profit organisations signing up to create feeds that will warn users about emergencies, natural disasters and other extreme events at times when other communications services might be unavailable.
Twitter Alerts were originally launched in September, but didn’t feature any representatives from the UK or Ireland at the time. The organisations that have since signed up for the service include 47 regional police forces, An Garda Síochána (the Irish national police), the London Fire Brigade, the Mayor of London’s office, the Foreign Office, the online child protection body CEOP, the British Red Cross and the Environment Agency.
To receive alerts on their mobile device, users have to register with select government, non-profit and emergency organisations in advance.
In times of crisis
Once users sign up to receive Twitter Alerts from a selected number of accounts, they will get a text message when those accounts mark a tweet as being important. The alerts can also be sent to the users of iOS and Android apps as push notifications.
The new tweets can be identified by an orange bell icon on the homepage timeline, similarly to promoted tweets, which feature a yellow loudspeaker icon.
Each organisation is free to choose what kind of information calls for a Twitter Alert.
Twitter has previously warned that while the new service can help to be prepared and informed, it does not replace official emergency notification systems or services.
A good example of Twitter Alerts in action was seen in the beginning of October, when a woman drove into a barrier at the White House and was then chased to the US Capitol, with shots fired at two locations.
— SenateSergeantAtArms (@SenateSAA) October 3, 2013
“Getting fast and accurate information to the public in a major incident or terrorist attack really could make a life-saving difference,” commented commander David Martin, head of emergency planning for the Metropolitan Police. “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.”
“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,” added John Curtin, head of Incident Management at the Environment Agency.
Earlier this month, Twitter went public, with the company valued at more than $18 billion (£11bn) on the day of IPO.
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