News

Twitter introduces emergency alert system

Twitter introduces emergency alert system

Photo: Reuters

By Gerry Shih

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Twitter, which is preparing for its initial public offering, said on Wednesday it will help users receive special alerts from government agencies and aid agencies during emergencies.

Users who sign up will receive smartphone notifications via the Twitter app as well as SMS text messages – assuming they agree to handover their cell phone numbers – from any of several dozen agencies who have signed on to the program.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, Tokyo’s Disaster Prevention service and the World Health Organization are among those participating.

The alerts program starts a year after Twitter showcased its potential as a lifeline during Hurricane Sandy, when stranded residents on the eastern U.S. seaboard reported the storm’s progress and sought help on the mobile network.

A similar lifeline service played a part in the rescue efforts in Japan following the devastating 2011 tsunami, Twitter said. The program is initially available in the United States, Japan and Korea and will be expanded to other countries.

Craig Fugate, the FEMA administrator, said the service was at the cutting edge of disaster management in the age of smartphones.

“Today we have a two-way street — residents are informed about hazards in real time and emergency managers receive immediate feedback on the consequences of a disaster,” Fugate said in a statement.

The program reflects the evolution of Twitter from its earliest days, when it gained a reputation as a hangout for geeks to share the minute details of their most recent meal or who they encountered at the South by Southwest Festival.

But the crowd-sourced information of today’s Twitter has also proved problematic.

Even as the New York City Fire Department used Twitter to communicate with residents during Hurricane Sandy, there were pranksters who spread misinformation on the service, including a rumor that the New York Stock Exchange was submerged underwater.

And in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, the name of a missing Brown University student went viral on Twitter after many users, including journalists, mistakenly identified him as a suspect.

Twitter, for its part, has maintained a strictly hands-off attitude toward monitoring its content and denied responsibility for ensuring its accuracy.

Earlier this month, Twitter filed with regulators for an initial public offering. Reuters reported last week that Twitter was in talks looking to add additional banks to its underwriting syndicate.

What's Happening at KIOA

Historic Valley Junction

valleyjunction

Check out all of the exciting events happening at Historic Valley Junction

KIO-ATM presented by Mediacom Careers

KIOATM2_DL

Win $5,000 instantly with KIO-ATM presented by Mediacom Careers

What’s On Tap

whatsontap-FI

Find out where the cool places are to be this week. Presented by Bud Light.

Hire Me Iowa

HireMeIowa_620x400_final

Looking for a job around the Des Moines area? Check out our current job listings here.

Join the Good Times Email Club

:Kioa_EmailClub-01

Join today for your shot at prizes and contests open just to members!

Recent Headlines

2 hours ago in Viral Videos

The cicadas are coming …

24-overlay

Billions of cicadas will soon emerge after spending 17 years underground and they have a lot of catching up to do.

2 hours ago in Entertainment

Too much ice in your Starbucks?

starbucks265305906988

A federal lawsuit claims Starbucks regularly overfills its cold drinks with ice instead of using the advertised amount of coffee or other liquid in its plastic cups.