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Americans demand Twitter-watching police

But almost half assume they don't

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Americans expect their emergency services to respond to postings on their web sites and Twittered messages, but more than half would give them a call just to make sure.

A study carried out by the American Red Cross (pdf), and picked up by Daily Wireless, found that in an emergency Americans are increasingly willing to use social networks to find out what's going on, and expect the emergency services to keep an eye out too, but while they're happy to get information from the internet they're less keen to share what they know of current events.

Just over half of the thousand or so Americans interviewed would bother mentioning, on their Facebook page or similar, a flooded road or failed power lines. Less than half would talk about a car crash, or a major traffic jam, which is surprising given the twaddle that normally fills such social channels - one might imagine that they'd be keen for something interesting to say.

That's not to say that emergency situations aren't written about. After the fact, when the scribblers can relay their own experiences and opinions, then the wires light up. Three quarters of those surveyed had written about emergencies on Facebook, while 22 per cent had blogged about them and almost the same number had Twittered.

During an emergency Americans turn to old faithful - the TV, with local radio as a second source. Only 16 per cent would expect Facebook to advise them on the state of the encroaching zombie horde.

When it comes to summoning help the situation is much the same - even if repeated calls to 911 had failed most Americans would just phone the local police/fire station/hospital. Only 18 per cent would turn to the internet, and almost the same number would walk to find assistance.

But that's not to say they don't expect those emergency services to keep an eye on their web sites and Twitter feeds. A whacking 69 per cent feel that the services should monitor postings on their own web pages, just in case, though almost half of those questioned assumed that no such monitoring was currently taking place.

Following an emergency only 28 per cent of those using social networks would "definitely" use the service to let people know they were OK, another 21 per cent "probably would", but 16 per cent "definitely would not", which comes as some surprise.

So next time you mates fail to update following an fire/flood/earthquake, don't assume they've burnt/drowned/fallen to the centre of the Earth, they might have just decided that some things are better said than posted on Facebook. ®

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