All Facebook Pages For Governments, First Responders Will Now Have Access to Incident Alert Tool
With local alerts, Facebook pages can send notifications to residents about threats, including weather warnings and active shooter situations, and boost the posts in users’ news feeds.
- By Haley Samsel
- Aug 29, 2019
Following a 2018 pilot program in several cities, Facebook is now making its local alerts tool available to anyone running a page associated with city governments, emergency management agencies and first responders.
That means that all towns and police departments across the country will have the ability to warn residents of imminent threats, particularly active shooter situations, almost instantaneously through Facebook.
The company announced on Tuesday that any eligible Facebook page should have access to local alerts by the end of the year. The alerts work like this: When local authorities mark a post as a local alert, Facebook takes steps to amplify their reach on users’ social media feeds.
The social media platform also sends notifications to people living in the affected area, and posts that information on Today In, a new section on Facebook that shows local news, community information and “conversations between neighbors,” Facebook product manager Anthea Watson Strong wrote in a blog post. The alert will also be marked as such so users will be able to identify it as legitimate.
In the past year, officials from over 350 local governments used the alert system to inform citizens of “everyday emergencies,” including flash flood warnings, mandatory evacuations, missing people reports, active shooters, road closures, bomb threats and more, Strong said. In some cases, the alerts system helped communities find people who had gone missing within hours.
Austin Ellington, the digital content and social media coordinator for the city government in Round Rock, Texas, said in a statement that the tool has been useful in keeping residents and families safe, particularly because of its wide reach.
“From distributing information related to emergency weather situations, to engaging the public in active missing persons search efforts, Facebook’s local alerts function has become a key part of our agency’s social strategy,” Ellington said. “Facebook is where our residents are, there’s no questioning that, and local alerts have significantly strengthened our communication efforts via the platform by providing enhanced credibility to our messaging."
The tool has been improved by allowing pages to specifiy what type of alert they are sending and target specific counties, cities, towns or neighborhoods that should receive notifications about a threat.
And, in a survey of 2,000 people who had seen local alerts posts, Facebook found that 80 percent reported finding the posts at least somewhat valuable. Another 43 percent said they “took an action as a result” of the information they read.
“This feedback, along with the work we’ve done over the past year to improve local alerts, has given us confidence that we should provide access to eligible local governments and first responders everywhere, so they can have another tool in their toolkit to keep people in their communities safe,” Strong wrote.
To get access to local alerts, Facebook page administrators can fill out this form and wait to be approved by the social network.