Metropolitan Police Commander David Martin gave the thumbs up to the service stating that it could be a life-saving measure in providing accurate and speedy information during major incidents or terrorist attacks. The head of emergency planning added that the social network provided police with an extra way of talking directly to the public in a way that captured attention when it was most needed.
The Foreign Office, Environment Agency and Police forces across the country are all taking part in the scheme, and London authorities, including the London Fire Brigade, the Mayor of London’s Office and Metropolitan Police have also signed up.
All participating organizations in the launch of the new service are already using Twitter as a communication tool and they fully back the new service, explaining that it would further enhance their means of sharing information and issuing warnings during incidents.
However, there is one slightly troublesome issue that will need to be addressed. During previous times of crisis, Twitter has been an unwitting vehicle for the transmission of false and misleading information across its network. Fully aware of this vulnerability, Twitter accepts that rumours are bound to happen wherever people communicate and they will naturally have a fair share of half-truths and hearsay. In most cases these are started by well-meaning persons who are simply misinformed. Nevertheless misinformation and rumours can contribute to panic, a totally undesirable situation in a crisis.
Earlier this year, the alerts service was trialled in the US and has been successfully brought into play in live emergencies including the Capitol Hill Shooting. As well as in the US, the service is now operating in Japan and Korea, and has been employed during tornado warnings, gun attacks and child abduction cases. Highlighted with an orange bell symbol, alerts appear in newsfeeds on Twitter.
The service is a shining example of how social media can play a role in providing an undeniably beneficial community service. The potentially life-saving feature should increase Twitter users by even greater numbers, a pleasing statistic for investors in the newly listed public company.