Britain considers emergency tweet system

Dec. 17, 2012 at 8:26 PM
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LONDON, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Officials with London's Fire Brigade say they are looking at ways to allow people to tweet emergencies rather than dial the 999 emergency services number.

They acknowledged the increasing presence of smartphones means the service must "improve how we communicate with the public," even though they presently advise against using social media to report fires as such sites are not monitored 24 hours a day, the BBC reported Monday.

"With over a billion people now using Facebook and half a billion using Twitter, it's quite clear that social media is here to stay," Rita Dexter, deputy commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, said.

"The London Fire Brigade is the biggest fire service in the country and we think it's important to look into ways to improve how we communicate with the public and how they can get in touch with us."

Brigade officials said the organization would share its experiences with social media use with other emergency services.

Its @LondonFire Twitter account has attracted more than 30,000 followers.

"When it was first set up in 1935, people said that dialing 999 to report emergencies would never work," Dexter said.

"Today BT [British Telecom] handles over 30 million emergency calls each year.

"It's time to look at new ways for people to report emergencies quickly and efficiently and social media could provide the answer in the future," she said.

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