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Twitter says be Alert, not alarmed

Twitter has launched 'Twitter Alerts', a new feature designed to help users during emergency events like natural disasters or major traffic disruptions for example.

"In times of crisis, the public rely on emergency services, government organisations and charities to share critical information as quickly as possible," Twitter said in a blog post. 

"With the launch of Twitter Alerts in Australia today, we’re making it easier for those organisations to get that critical information to the right people at the right time."

Australian organisations that have signed up so far for the service, according to the blog post, are the NSW Rural Fire Service (@NSWRFS), NSW Police (@nswpolice), Victorian Police (@VictoriaPolice), Queensland Police (@QPSmedia), Western Australia Police (@WA_Police), South Australian Police (@SAPoliceNews), Australian Government's travel advisory (@smartraveller), the Department of Health (@healthgovau), Fire & Rescue NSW (@FRNSW), Country Fire Service South Australia (@CFSAlerts), the City of Brisbane (@brisbanecityqld), City of Sydney (@CityofSydney) and the Australian Red Cross (@RedCrossAU).

The organisations will be able to mark urgent Tweets as "alerts" which will feature an orange bell for added visibility in their followers' feeds. Twitter said participating organisations will choose for themselves what information merits a Twitter Alert designation; the feature is only intended for crisis, disaster and emergency communications.

Twitter users who sign up for an account's Twitter Alerts will also get notifications on their phones via text message whenever the account marks a tweet as an alert.

"All of the organisations participating in today's launch already use Twitter as a tool to communicate important information to their followers," Twitter Australia media partnerships director Danny Keen said.

"We hope this will be a useful, additional channel for emergency service organisations to broadcast need-to-know information that will rise above regular tweet activity."

During the October bush fires the NSW Rural Fire Service saw more than 20 million impressions and 18,300 retweets of its Twitter messages as well as 470 million impressions of tweets with the #nswfires hashtag.

"The NSW RFS uses Twitter not only to push out information and warnings to the community during major bush fire emergencies, but also as an intelligence tool, pulling information in which can assist with the fire fighting effort," he said.

Mark Bayly, Online Communications Manager for Victoria Police said, “We believe Twitter Alerts will be of enormous benefit in providing the community with targeted, real time updates in times of an emergency.”

For more information on the new service check out the support article from Twitter here.

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