Twitter To Warn Users About Emergencies, Natural Disasters

New Twitter Alerts feature allows government agencies and NGOs to contact users directly

Twitter has launched Alerts, a feature that warns its users about emergencies, natural disasters and other extreme events at times when other communications services might be down.

To receive alerts on their mobile device, users have to sign up with select government, non-profit and emergency organisations in advance.

The service is currently provided by over 50 government agencies and non-profits, most of them located in the US. The company says it plans to expand Alerts worldwide and is currently taking requests from potential “partners”.

In times of crisis

“In times of crisis, this account helps share critical information with Twitter Alerts. Be prepared,” Twitter says of its service.

alerts1Once 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, just like promoted tweets, which feature a yellow loudspeaker icon.

At launch, Alerts feature a limited number of organisations, but Gaby Peña, product manager at Twitter, said the company will expand the service to include more public institutions and NGOs around the world.

Twitter warns that while the new service can help to be prepared and informed, it does not replace official emergency notification systems or services.

This is not the first time Twitter is making its platform more useful in crisis situations. Last year, the company launched Lifeline, a service that allowed Japanese users to find important accounts, such as those managed by local media, governments and utilities, by entering their postal code into the search bar. Such added functionality is especially useful in the event of a natural disaster, which are quite frequent in the region.

Lifeline was developed with the support of the Japanese government, and remains a unique service.

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