Since the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008, I’ve been a keen advocate of the use of twitter in emergencies, leading me to join in the spring of 2009. As social networks become increasingly popular it’s inevitable that their functionality evolves to make them more directly useful beyond being a communication platform.
About a month ago I met with @PocketSteve from Twitter to talk about Twitter Alerts. This is a new service provided by Twitter which has its roots in the Japanese earthquake and subsequent incidents in Fukushima, and allows time-critical and verified information to be cascaded directly to individuals from responding organisations.
Following a succesful launch in Japan and the United States, Twitter Alerts are now available in the UK. As an opt-in service, you need to activate Twitter alerts for each of the accounts that you want to receive information from, whilst messages sent using the system will (hopefully) be infrequent, here’s what I think you can expect from them…
- Metropolitan Police – large road traffic accidents, public order incidents and terrorism – I’d say that if you’re only going to sign up for one of these accounts this should be it (although I’d encourage you to go for all of them!) as the police usually play a significant role in the response to an emergency
- City of London Police – as above but limited to the square mile – important for those who work or travel into the city, not just those who live there
- British Transport Police – incidents affecting the railways or London Underground (note that this will be national alert messages)
- London Fire Brigade – updates and alerts of major fires and explosions, incidents involving chemicals, radioactive or biological substances.
- London Ambulance Service – updates on major incidents and emergencies incidents affecting people – for the most reliable information on casualty numbers this has got to be your best source
- Environment Agency – flooding from rain, rivers or the sea and pollution incidents
- Mayor of London – general comment and reassurance about emergency response and recovery, this will be your place for key messages on actions you can take if you’re not directly involved
So there you have it, follow the accounts and sign up to their Twitter Alerts…and share this post so others can do the same!
Oh, and if you’re not London based, or are interested in updates from other emergency services in the UK then here’s a link to all participating accounts.