(CNN) -- When a report of a possible explosive device on the roof of a city parking garage came in to the Lakeland, Florida, Police Department, public safety officials there sprang into action.They sent out a squad to investigate and they posted a notice on Twitter.
Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are mostly used by those who want to keep their friends and families informed about their lives and activities.
But increasingly, police and fire departments across the country are tapping into social networking to disseminate information to the public.
"We think the police department has an obligation to get information out to the community through whatever means or mechanisms we have at our disposal," said Lakeland Police
Assistant Chief Bill LePere. "Traditional media releases, expecting the local print media to pick it up and run it in the newspaper tomorrow, is 24 hours too late."
With Twitter and Facebook, there is immediacy. Information can be shared as quickly as the poster can hit send.Public safety officials are finding the use of sites to be not only speedy, but also a convenient way to distribute press releases, Amber alerts, road closings and suspect descriptions.
Bruce Frazier, public relations specialist for the Dalton Police Department in Dalton, Georgia, said the way in which Lakeland police utilized Twitter is exactly what he envisioned when his department started using the site a few weeks ago.
His department has a blog and Frazier said he learned the value of being able to keep the public updated quickly in October after a bombing at an area law firm.
March 13, 2009
Police Using Twitter
We are going to continue to see more examples of government using various forms of social media to communicate with the public.