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Rock County 911 dispatchers will soon use Twitter

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Frank Schultz
March 19, 2014

JANESVILLE—The people who call out firefighters and police every day in Rock County will soon be using Twitter for a different kind of communication.

The dispatchers will “tweet” to warn the public about crashes tying up traffic, floods covering roads and other dangerous conditions.

In the past, dispatchers at the Rock County Communications Center have made a call to local radio stations if emergency responders asked them to get the word out. They also would inform the state Department of Transportation's 511 system.

The DOT sends out emails or tweets to anyone who signs up for the service, but the 511 communications typically are slower than a direct tweet would be, and those tweets are for every incident statewide.

Rock County dispatchers will be asked to “tweet” so people will know to avoid trouble such as a blocked highway, said Rock County Communications Director Kathy Sukus.

The county's 911 commission on Wednesday unanimously approved a new policy governing the emergency tweets.

The tweeted information will be limited. The policy calls for dispatchers to include the type of incident, its location, the name of the primary agency handling the emergency and a brief message, such as “road closed.”

A follow-up tweet would inform people that a road has reopened.

Sukus said the 911 center's first attempt to inform the public will continue to be a call to the state 511 system.

The Rock County dispatchers' tweets will be accessible at twitter.com/rockcounty911.

Sukus said the service will not start until sometime in April, because dispatchers, most of whom don't use Twitter, need to be trained.

News media will find the new service useful. In the past, getting this basic information has required a call to the 911 center's busy call-takers.

 

 



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