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Twitter amps up its mobile emergency alert system

The social network adds four new countries to its iOS and Android crisis alert system, while also launching an easy-add bell icon to all designated agencies' profiles.

Twitter has signed up a wide variety of government agencies, like FEMA, to deliver critical information in the event of an emergency.
Federal Emergency Management Agency

You never know when a crisis will hit, which is why Twitter launched its "Alerts" system in September designed to help users get crucial information during an emergency. On Thursday, the social network added a few new features to this system to make it even easier for users to get notified on their mobile devices.

"Now, on your iOS or Android app, you can go to a participating organization's profile and easily subscribe to their Alerts as push notifications by tapping on the bell icon," Twitter product manager Gabriela Pena wrote in a blog post. "We also added in-app notifications for iOS: when you're browsing on Twitter you'll now receive a notification at the bottom of your screen when an alert is sent by an organization whose Alerts you subscribe to."

Since Twitter is already seen by many users as a reliable way to get real-time information about breaking news, emergencies, and other events, it makes sense that the social network would put an alert system in place. The idea is to give users a way to get reliable and accurate information from credible agencies "during an emergency, natural disaster, or whenever other communication services aren't accessible."

The alerts come in the form of a SMS message or push notification that users receive directly to their iPhone or Android device. Within the Twitter app, alerts are indicated as an orange bell.

To get alerts, users have to opt-in via the new bell icon on designated agencies' Twitter profiles. So, for example, to get alerts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a user would need to go to FEMA's profile page and click the bell icon.

The Alerts system was born out of Twitter's implementation of a similar setup called Lifeline, which helped deliver information to people after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

When Alerts launched, it was available in the US, Japan, and Korea. As of Thursday, it is now also available in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and Brazil.