twitterLondon Fire Brigade has said it is considering allowing people to tweet emergencies instead of dialling 999.

It currently advises against using social media to make the service aware of fires as it is not monitored 24 hours a day but LFB's Deputy Commissioner has suggested that doing is key to "improving how we communicate with the public".

Rita Dexter said: "When it was first set up in 1935, people said that dialling 999 to report emergencies would never work; today BT handles over 30 million emergency calls each year.

"With over a billion people now using Facebook and half a billion using Twitter, 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."

Many emergency services around the country already use social media to track and monitor fires with Dexter particularly highlighting their response to one large blaze in west London last January.

"Due to the police helicopter not being available, the LFB turned to its Twitter followers who were in the area to take pictures and describe the scene. We had firefighters scouring social media to get as much information about the incident as possible," she added. 

"Information was relayed back to experts at headquarters who were able to make an assessment as to the severity of the situation. At its height, about 75 firefighters tackled the blaze and without help from social media it would have taken much longer to control the fire.

A more common use of Twitter by Services is tweeting awareness campaigns around traditionally busy periods, such as the warning about electric heater fires @londonfire sent out to its 32,000-plus followers during the recent cold weather.

The Brigade would become the first emergency service in the UK to look into how apps, social media and micro-blogging sites, like Twitter, could be used by the public to report emergencies. It said it aims to work with the Government and other blue light services, such as the Met Police and London Ambulance Service, to establish whether the idea could become a reality and the extent to which social media might be used to report emergencies.

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Posted 19/12/2012 by