Need to know tweeting

Need to know tweeting

April 27th, 2009 by Andy Johns in News

Sometimes 113 characters is all you need.

"Everyone affected by the Ridgedale Sub failure - downtown, Brainerd, E Ridge, E Chatt - should all be back on now."

That "tweeted" message was sent out Wednesday by the Chattanooga EPB after power was restored to 3,000 residents about 10:30 a.m.

The EPB account - @EPB_Chattanooga - has been busy this month, sending out messages known as "tweets" on the microblogging social network Twitter. The site allows users to send out 140-character messages to their followers via Internet, cell phone or PDA.

The EPB sent out 10 messages from April 10 through 13, giving its 253 followers updates on efforts to restore electricity.

Safety "Tweeters"

* EPB Chattanooga

twitter.com/EPB_Chattanooga

* Dalton, Ga. Police Department

twitter.com/DaltonPD

* Center for Disease Control

twitter.com/CDCemergency

TFP TWEETS

The Times Free Press is on Twitter. Follow @timesfreepress or visit twitter.com/timesfreepress for local news tweets.

"This is just one way to keep people informed about what's going on with the power," said Danna Bailey Cannon, vice president of corporate communications for EPB.

The board's use of Twitter is part of a growing number of businesses and government agencies using the network to get out emergency information. Police and fire departments from Los Angeles to Lakeland, Fla., have used Twitter to send out messages about fires, and the Washington state department of transportation uses the service to send out traffic updates.

Closer to home, the Dalton, Ga., Police Department has used Twitter to tweet about road closures during a house fire on Walnut Avenue in March.

"Critical information can get out pretty quickly," said Bruce Frazier, the department's public relations specialist and chief tweeter.

Ms. Cannon said EPB's account is managed by a "Twitter team," including personnel from public relations, telecommunications, information technology and customer relations. Industry research shows customer are more satisfied with the way outages are handled if they have more information about the cause and efforts to fix it, she said.

North Chattanooga resident Warren Parks, who goes by "carazy" on Twitter, said getting outage updates was a pleasant surprise.

"I thought it was pretty cool because it was totally unexpected," he said.

Hixson resident Adrienne Royer, a social media advocate, said she was without power for 27 hours during the storms and tweeted back and forth with EPB after power was restored.

"I can't replace the food in my refrigerator, but it was nice to talk to a real person," she said.

Ms. Royer, who has given lectures on social networks to several local groups, said the emergency uses for Twitter show the format is growing up.

"We've finally have gotten past the 'I'm having a hamburger for lunch' stage," she said.