Emergency Services Told to Start Utilising Social Media

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  • August 4, 2015

We all know about the benefits of using social media for keeping in contact with friends and giving our businesses an effective online presence. But what about using them for contacting the emergency services?

Sound far-fetched? We recently told you about how South Australian courts are using Twitter to communicate legal updates, so why not social media for emergency services?

At present, people in the UK dial 999 whenever they need the assistance of the police, fire or ambulance services, but a recent Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) report has said that a digital shake-up is needed.

The IET said in their Contacting Emergency Services in the Digital Age report that the UK’s 999 system needs to incorporate text and social media responses. More specifically, it recommends that the blue light services use smartphones instead of landlines and data instead of voice, creating a “cross platform” database which all service providers can utilise.

According to the report, there is “considerable opportunity” to improve the existing service by using GPS and automatic text-scanning software. There could even be the capability to check messages for specific keywords and leverage camera or voice-recording functions too.

The report said this would result “in a much more accurate and rapid assessment of the level and nature of the threat involved”.

The IET says that the measures not only have the potential to save more lives, but will also result in faster response times at lower costs.

The chair of the IET’s Communications Policy Panel, Professor Will Stewart, said: “Ofcom figures show, for example, that 94 per cent of communications from 12-15 year olds is text based.

“Given that young people are statistically more likely to be victims of crime or accidents, it is a concern that making a voice call to contact the emergency services is not something that would feel natural to them.”

Whether a new digital-focused approach to emergency services in the UK is implemented remains to be seen.

It is, however, a radical idea that further emphasises the growing number of potential applications for social media.

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