One of Twitter’s newest features was put to good use just a week after its launch.
After gunshots were fired near the U.S. Capitol on Thursday and the Capitol was placed under lockdown, the Senate Sergeant at Arms (@SenateSAA) sent out notifications of and updates on the incident via Twitter’s new emergency alert system.
Introduced last week, Twitter Alerts are, as Twitter’s Help Center states, “tweets published by select public agencies and emergency organizations during a crisis or emergency that contain up-to-date information relevant to an unfolding event, such as public safety warnings and evacuation instructions.” Users that subscribe to alerts from participating institutions receive alert tweets in their timeline (alert tweets have orange bell icons next to them to easily distinguish them from other tweets) and text or push notifications when emergency situations take place. More than 70 institutions are participating in Twitter’s alert program, including The American Red Cross, FEMA, and the World Health Organization.
While the lockdown of the Capitol is perhaps the most high-profile use of Twitter Alerts thus far, it is not the first time a government agency has made use of it. New York’s emergency notification system (@NotifyNYC) sent an alert about a child abduction last Friday. Additionally, the U.S. Department of the Interior informed people via Twitter Alerts on Wednesday that National Parks, wildlife refuges, and other lands that it manages will be closed during the government shutdown.