News Column

Fire Departments Using Social Media

April 4, 2013

Cynthia M. Ellis

"Fans" and "likes" no longer are unfamiliar lingo for area fire-fighting agencies. Two local departments are using Facebook ($FB) to communicate with the public about calls they respond to in their communities.

The East Alton Fire Department and the Rosewood Heights Fire Protection District are letting people know when firefighters respond to fires, traffic crashes and medical runs.

Rosewood Heights Fire Chief Tim Bunt said social media is a good way to keep residents up to date on major emergencies, as well as everyday events.

"We've found it to be a useful tool in informing the public," Bunt said. "We are also getting positive feedback from the community."

He said the district can be busy even if there isn't a raging fire at the time.

Updates appear regularly on the department's Facebook page; they include information about ongoing events and training along with photos and videos.

Bunt said the page was started several years ago; however, the district has been putting out more information during the past six months. He said that two of the district's firefighters are responsible for maintaining the page, but he gives final approval.

East Alton Fire Chief Randy Nelson said he likes that his department's page is keeping people up to date about what's going on in their neighborhood. He said people often hear sirens and see flashing lights, and even though the call is minor in nature, they still are concerned about it.

"The department's Facebook page keeps them informed about when we go out on a call and the type of call," he said.

Nelson said the page describes the type of call and whether other agencies provide mutual aid.

Both chiefs said the social platform is a good way to get information out, but the public needs to understand that more specific details of an incident will not be reported online. The pages will not identify a person or their condition, just the basics of the call.

"We find that people are responding on our Facebook page, so we know it's an efficient way to communicate with people," Bunt said.

Source: (c) 2013 The Telegraph (Alton, Ill.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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