Twitter ‘Alerts’ Service Extends To UK And Ireland

By Mary C. Long 

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 9.21.56 AMFifty-seven organizations in the UK and Ireland have signed up for the latest launch of Twitter Alerts, the social media platform’s emergency alert system, Twitter announced on its blog. Joining the US, Japan and Korea, who have been able to use the service since September 2013, the UK has already signed up all 47 of its police forces, the Mayor of London’s office, and the London Fire Brigade, to name a few.

View the complete list of participants here.

The alert system is intended to extend the reach of participating organizations responsible for delivering information to the public during times of crisis. Alert tweets will be marked as alerts, and notated by an orange bell, as below:

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 9.19.57 AM

Users who follow an organization will see their alerts on Twitter as with any other tweet, with the alert markings as shown in the image above. For a direct SMS message to their phone, users may sign up for any organization’s Twitter alerts via their set-up page, “[username]/alerts.” iPhone version 5.10 or higher, and Twitter for Android 4.1.6 or higher, users may sign up for push notifications as well.

With more and more people relying on their phones for access and information, utilizing social media during emergencies is a natural progression of the times and technology. It’s not a new idea, but Twitter Alerts is a service that helps refine what was already working with users.

The hashtag, for example – the symbol by which all Twitter users categorize and sort through information – was actually popularized during a crisis, when Chris Messina suggested the use of a hashtag prefacing the tag “sandiegofire” to Nate Ritter during the wildfires in October 2007.

While the hashtag is a marvelous tool for filtering information, it has an inherent flaw in that any user can add a popular hashtagged phrase to their tweets. When you click on the hashtag to follow the tag or trend, you might have to sift through hundreds of tweets to find information from an official source.

Twitter Alerts change that dynamic with a one-way stream of information direct from the powers that be, which during an emergency or crisis is who you most need to hear from. The people of Ireland and the UK will now be able to benefit from Twitter’s newest offering. But we hope they don’t have a need for it anytime soon.