Twitter is a Social Media tool with a wider variety of users than any other social media. Twitter is utilized by: Personal Users, Federal, State, and Local Government Organizations, By National and Local Media, Non-Government Organizations, and many other organization and groups.
TWITTER AS A TOOL FOR GETTING INFORMATION
Twitter is an excellent tool to acquire information on events in real time. Given the state of our media, you will see traffic on twitter long before breaking news on any local or national media platform. As an example, a news desk, or reporter, will tweet out they are at the scene of an incident well before they ever go live with the news story. Media now gets their information from government officials via twitter. If you are following the fire department, police department, or emergency service outlet, you will be one step ahead in gathering near real time news. If there is an event such as an active shooter or fire, the use of a hashtag will organically combine common posts. For example locally we had a wildfire, the hashtag rangefire was used. Anyone could add that hashtag in their post, and anyone could search by the hashtag to see those posts. This allows for a rapid combination of users around a single event. In this case we had local officials, emergency services, citizens, and media all using the hashtag. So all a follower had to do was follow the hashtag and not individual accounts.
Twitter supports the use of lists, so you can combine certain accounts into one "feed" or "list". For example I have all my local fire and emergency services on a list. I can watch what they are saying and not everyone I follow. Information on how you can setup lists and use twitter can be found in the video below.
In a nutshell, if you want the “pulse” of what is happening locally, nationally, or worldwide, you follow the twitter traffic. Having this level of real-time information is beneficial in everyday life but also essential in a developing emergency situation. Public Information Officers with government, law enforcement, EMS, and disaster relief organizations will use twitter to relay important information to the media and the public during an event as long as the internet connections last. As with any source of information, note the source of information for validity. Was the source an official government entity? Or a media outlet? Or a man on the street?
TWITTER FOR PERSONAL COMMUNICATION
Lastly, you can use twitter to disseminate your own personal status in an emergency. You can send a “tweet” as a text message from your phone, and your family and loved ones can watch that account for your “I’m safe” or “need help” messages. Twitter will disseminate much faster than a group text or email list. And it is there on the internet to access from anywhere without login credentials. So consider how you can utilize twitter for your family emergency communications plan.
Twitter is a great tool to use in your communication plan to get and give vital information. It is not a replacement of any other method, but just another tool to take advantage of. The use of twitter is a great replacement to speed up notifications such as ARES call outs where email lists are currently used.