Twitter has announced the launch of Twitter Alerts, which it describes as a way of broadcasting critical information from emergency reporting organizations.
"Today, we're launching Twitter Alerts, a new feature that brings us one step closer to helping users get important and accurate information from credible organizations during emergencies, natural disasters or moments when other communications services aren't accessible," the company announced in a blog post. "Twitter Alerts is a new way to get accurate and important information when you need it most."
A Twitter message that is tagged as an alert from an alerting organization will appear on subscriber handsets in a variety of forms. Twitter said that users should expect an SMS message, and, if they have its app on a mobile device, a push notification that alerts them to the content. Alerts are highlighted in the Twitter feed with an orange bell icon.
Twitter partner manager for government and politics Bridget Coyne said that a number of organizations have lined up to be part of the Twitter Alerts system, and that these include the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
"Social media has revolutionized communication during disasters," said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. "Today we have a two-way street – residents are informed about hazards in real time and emergency managers receive immediate feedback on the consequences of a disaster. Twitter Alerts provide an opportunity to get information directly from trusted sources."
Coyne said that it is up to user organization to define what they consider to be worthy of an alert, but recommended that they are used to warn about "imminent dangers," "preventive instructions," "evacuation directions," and "crowd and misinformation management."
Organizations in the U.S., Japan, and Korea can send alerts. A list of participating organizations includes the American Red Cross.