Mariamz

Tweeted emergency reports to LFB would be arguably less hoax-prone than 999 phone calls

Posted on: December 19, 2012

The London Fire Brigade has revealed it could allow people in the UK to tweet emergencies instead of dialling 999. Some might be concerned that this could lead to an increase in hoax fire reports being made, however arguably more indicative signals about a person can be drawn from their Twitter presence, than can be gauged on the phone.

There are many rapid checks that can be made to verify whether a tweeter is likely to be legitimate – including checking out their recent tweets, their follower to following ratio, and stated location. Another good signal of whether a fire report is genuine, is whether they are having Twitter conversations about the fire with other, similarly legitimate looking tweeters, especially in the local area. This certainly worked for me this year on two separate occasions when I looked to Twitter for information / confirmation: during the riots, and during a local power cut.

London Fire Brigade has used Twitter for information on fires in the past. At the beginning of the year LFB was faced with a lack of information when a police helicopter was unavailable to reach a large fire in west London. It asked its Twitter followers to take pictures and describe the scene. This allowed for a more detailed assessment of the situation and the subsequent dispatch of around 75 fire fighters. London Fire Brigade states without Twitter it would have taken longer to control the fire.

Jennifer Faull

Fire image by Colin Kinnear

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