Twitter launches emergency notification service

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(CNN) — A new service from Twitter allows government agencies and non-governmental organizations to send emergency messages directly to users’ phones during natural disasters or times of crisis, the company announced Wednesday.

Users that sign up for the service called Twitter Alerts will receive “critical information” via a text message or push notification when an organization marks a tweet as an “alert,” according to the Twitter Alerts website.

“Twitter Alerts[…] brings us one step closer to helping users get important and accurate information from credible organizations during emergencies, natural disasters or moments when other communications services aren’t accessible,” Gaby Peña, a product manager at Twitter, said on the company’s blog where the service was announced.

More than 60 organizations have signed up for the new system, including the emergency management departments of Louisiana, Florida, New York and Colorado as well as the American Red Cross and FEMA, said Twitter. International organizations such as The World Health Organization and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department have signed up.

To subscribe to these notifications, you can go directly to an account’s setup page, which you’ll find at twitter.com/[username]/alerts. See FEMA’s page at twitter.com/FEMA/alerts for an example. Additionally, on web, you can see if an organization is part of the program when you visit its profile.

Users can customize which organizations they receive alerts from through the service’s setup menu.

The alert system comes on the heels of Twitter being used by government agencies and news organizations to communicate with the public during recent crises such as Superstorm Sandy and the Boston Marathon bombings.

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