Twitter: the Star in a New Emergency Alert Program

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By Guy Levit, CEO

I recently read an article in Mashable that  57 UK and Irish government agencies will be using Twitter to post emergency alerts: “Twitter Alerts Adopted by UK and Irish Government Agencies”.  This is a very interesting development as more and more “channels” are being used to broadcast emergency alerts. So it is only right that social media is not left out of the “party” and quite frankly, it is an important channel to use for emergency alerts since so many people are following Twitter (as well as other social networking sites, of course).

Is Twitter Enough?

But unfortunately, today, in the myriad of communication devices and channels that we all use, a Tweet can’t be relied upon to inform the public of an emergency (even though Twitter it is such an integral part of our digital lives). We all have mobile phones, and sometimes even more than one device (according to a Sophos survey, we carry an average of 2.9 devices), and each one has dozens of apps that send out alerts several times on a daily basis. In addition to the mobile phone we have other devices and communication channels such as landlines, PCs, tablets, laptops, etc. So a message has to really STAND OUT to get our attention. In order to overcome this very issue, they have included a visual add-on designed to emphasize the urgency of the message.  Cute, but is it enough?

Don’t Make it Complicated! 

Users who want to opt into the service will have to subscribe via a special alert form on the participating agency’s Twitter account. Hmm…that requires a little more effort than simply clicking the “Follow” button on Twitter. Will that deter people from opting in?

Furthermore, users can register their phone numbers with the agencies to receive SMS alert message but…and this is a BIG BUT, their number will then be discoverable by others on Twitter unless they adjust the settings on their account. Hmm…more work, more complications. Is that a further deterrent?

Get the Message Through – Any Which Way

So while I am all for opening up as many channels of communication as possible to alert the public to potential harm and provide quick and useful information that could save lives, I believe we must think in broader terms.  I would like a real emergency message to get to me any which way it can: Voice Message to Landline and Mobile, SMS, Email as well as through social media.

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