According to the London Fire Brigade, it may soon be possible to tweet emergencies instead of phoning the emergency services, which is currently not encouraged as social media is not monitored 24/7. The change is being considered as the organisation acknowledges that the rise in smart phones suggests that they should “improve how we communicate with the public”. The authority has said that it would share its experience with other fire brigade and emergency services.
Rita Dexter, deputy commissioner of the London Fire Brigade (LFB), said that: “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. 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.”
Social media has already demonstrated its usefulness in emergency situations. For example, in January the LFB looked to its Twitter followers to take pictures and describe a fire in west London, as a police helicopter was not available. Information was passed on to HQ and the LFB has said that without social media the blaze would have taken longer to control.
Twitter has also been used to promote awareness campaigns, such as bonfire night safety tweets. Accounts like @LondonFire have over 30,000 followers.
“When it was first set up in 1935, people said that dialling 999 to report emergencies would never work,” said Ms Dexter. “Today BT 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.”
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