Twitter's emergency Alerts system has been rolled out to the UK and Ireland, with 57 emergency services organisations now able to directly warn users of dangerous situations.
Twitter Alerts were first introduced in September for organisations in the US and Japan, but the tool now extends to British and Irish services, including the Metropolitan Police, British Transport Police, Mayor of London and the British Red Cross.
The system is run on an opt-in basis for users, meaning that users must actively choose to receive alerts in addition to merely following an organisation on Twitter. Alerts are issued as text messages or push notifications for Android smartphones and iPhones.
Announcing the news on the firm's official blog, Twitter's UK representative Steve Summers said Alerts would increase the effectiveness of the organisations' Twitter use.
"All of the organisations participating in today's launch already use Twitter as a tool to communicate important information to their followers," he said. "The added functionality of Twitter Alerts will help them reach their followers with important and accurate information during emergencies, natural disasters or when other communications services aren't accessible."
John Curtin, head of incident management at the Environment Agency, which has signed up to use Alerts, said: "Digital communications is enhancing the way we share warning information. During an incident such as flooding, we see significant spikes in related conversation."
He added: "Twitter Alerts provide an excellent opportunity to increase the visibility and urgency of our most vital warning messages so that people can take action to protect themselves and their property."
Rita Dexter, deputy commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, highlighted the importance of official, high-impact tweets in times of crisis: "People act on information shared on social media.
"During a major incident, accurate, verified and frequent updates are essential. Twitter Alerts will help us communicate quickly during a significant emergency."
The role of social media in major emergencies in the UK has been a mixed bag in recent years. Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger were criticised during the riots in 2011 for allowing misinformation to spread. More recently, public transport operators and emergency services took to Twitter to spread information during the storm in the UK in October.
Since launching, Twitter Alerts have been used by a variety of US organisations, an example of which can be seen below.
— SenateSergeantAtArms (@SenateSAA) October 3, 2013
Insecticides based on sulfoxaflor might be as bad for bees as neonicotinoids
Intel teases forthcoming new graphics card accompanied by the text "We will set our graphics free"
Think your password manager is completely secure? Think again...
ARM plans 7nm 'Deimos' for 2019 and 5nm and 7nm 'Hercules' for 2020