You might have heard that the London Fire Brigade (LFB) is looking into using social media for emergencies, leading to visions of tweets like:
@londonfire house is burning plz come rescue OMG
People already do try to contact the fire brigade to report emergencies, and we’ve seen borough police accounts repeatedly ask people not to tweet them to report a crime in progress. Seriously. We mean, even if these Twitter accounts were monitored 24/7 and it wasn’t a stupid idea to publish addresses or personal information on t’internet, why would anyone do that? Why? Why?
Moving on from our slow descent into permanent headdesking, it turns out that the idea stems from the most recent draft London Safety Plan (PDF), which contains the section:
use social media to encourage behavioural change; to help Londoners protect themselves from fire and to help the London public avoid the travel and business continuity interruptions of fire.
Using social media to educate and inform seems infinitely sensible, and an expansion on what the account does already. But this statement has been expanded into a fire brigade press release which says it’s working with the government and other emergency services to look at the extent to which social media could be used to report emergencies.
The LFB has already used Twitter as a fallback to get information about a large fire in Shepherd’s Bush, but we can’t imagine it ever working for reporting. By the time you’ve exchanged a couple of tweets to establish location and nature of incident etc, you could be blacked out from smoke inhalation, the thief will be in another postcode with your bag or you’ll be dead from that heart attack. And quite how dispatchers are supposed to work out which tweets are genuine and which are from drunks/children we’re not quite sure.