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Can Twitter Help Your Department

Get Information out Quick with Twitter

twitter for fire departmentsBuilding and Safety, fire prevention  and emergency management departments have looked for creative ways to provide quick tips to our communities.  This may be the news, when to shelter in place, tid-bits on big events, or when the next open house is.  Web 2.0 is moving quickly and traditional static web-pages are becoming a thing of the past.  The social media of Twitter, Facebook, or Linked in can help you get your message out.

I have been on twitter for a little while, trying to figure out, but it is really simple.  I have found over 20 fire departments, the American Red Cross, USFA, and even the NFPA all on twitter (I am still looking for a couple building departments).   In fact many news organizations are blasting out updates on twitter because it is faster then an email.

Twitter Defined:

Twitter is a free micro blog that lets you share information with the near 2 million users.  The reason its called a micro-blog is that it is that each line can only use up to 140 characters.  So, you have to think in brevity when posting on twitter.

How Can it Be Used

twitter for building and fire departmentsIn the code enforcement arena, we strive to educate the public on fire prevention, building safety, or why you need a permit.  Part of the problem, is that people only come to our static web-pages when they need something.

With social media we can provide quick snippets that are injected into thousands of lives and can bring them to our sites.   For instance, we have a public safety message on why permits are needed for decks.  We fax it out to our local news media and they run a small article.  We can take it one step further, create a twitter account and look to add followers over time.  If we had 100 followers, we can send out a quick blip and send them back to our web-page.

This access is only available if we have a means to communicate with the general public and continue to build on it.  There are many fire departments who use twitter for PIO’s or even to broadcast details on incidents and even evacuation notices.

In fact the PIO’s for LAFD have been utilizing twitter and other social media concepts since early 2007.  This trend of government utilizing social media was highlighted in PC Magazine.  LAFD has nearly 2500 followers and broadcasts multiple messages in a day.


There are many options with Twitter on how to view the “tweets” or catagorize the people you follow.  In fact there are hundreads of resources for twitter, just google it.

Some people may even elect to have twitter text message them when they recieve certian tweets.  Think of the possibilities if you wanted to get a message out to the masses on evacuations!  Don’t let social media break you down, its hear to stay and we need to make our departments version 2.0. 

If you are on twitter and would like others to find you, send us a comment with your twitter ID

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Ed Comeau March 3, 2009, 6:05 am

    Like you, I am trying to learn more about how the social media tools are being used and can be applied for fire safety (Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, youtube, etc…) I’m particularly looking at how to outreach to today’s Net Gen with these tools. It is a challenge…the landscape keeps moving under our feet very quickly!

    Ed Comeau

  • Ruchi March 3, 2009, 6:52 am

    Nice article

  • Nick Markowitz Jr. March 3, 2009, 7:11 am

    As always with any of these socail sites be dam careful what you are doing
    The digital genration has lots of unseen dangers to it is constantly changing and dificult to deal with. Even the small site I keep has been hacked and filled with porno or script kiddies just trying to shut it down for no good reason and me and Al keep an eye on it every day but can not be there 24/7 to keep the barbarians out.

  • Nick Markowitz Jr. March 3, 2009, 4:54 pm

    Here is exactly what I was talking about one of theses P2P networks let loose sensitive details


  • Tiffani March 3, 2009, 5:32 pm

    Scottsdale Fire Dept uses Twitter to provide updates on breaking incidents, safety tips, upcoming events and to drive traffic to our PIO press release page.

    You can follow at http://www.twitter.com/ScottsdaleFire

  • Mike March 3, 2009, 5:50 pm

    Ed, I agree completely and just looking for mutliple ways to reach everyone. Its funny but we want our site to give inspectors options. We realize how busy everyone is, some like email, some like twitter, others like RSS feeds

    Ruchi , thanks for stopping by

    Nick , I do agree on the spam and that is why we spent some time and effort on this site to keep it out of this site. The one spam I did get from a follower on twitter was quickly deleted by them and seems to work pretty well. The article on sensitive information is a great reminder that we need to be careful, there are people out there that like to mess with others just for fun.

    Tiffani thanks for the link to Scottsdale I like there stuff it seems to work pretty well.

  • FM William Burns March 4, 2009, 11:40 am

    I can see the benefit of using such an informational tool but the trouble I see is getting the followers. With regards to prevention programs and topics, we must reach the targeted audiences desired.

    Ed could benefit from this through the use and association with a University’s mass notification media like VT and NIU are using following their incidents. Hooking up with that type of partnership is beneficial. Establishing the followers is the key component and with regards to our targeted audiences in prevention and notification, most don’t use social media networks (exception in Ed’s case and mission with colleges) and we still need to use the standard methods of notification and publication. It is a good tool for your toolbox that needs time and attention to make it an effective tool for use.

  • Mike March 10, 2009, 10:26 pm

    Just saw this article from a twitter post from @carolARC this is really cool stuff and I think it could work with some effort


    Also the American Red Cross is using social media like crazy, look how they have even linked all of their chapters!

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