This is an interesting question – should the fire services take emergency calls (currently 999) via social media sites like Twitter? Last week the London Fire Brigade said it was considering such a move, allowing people to tweet emergencies instead of dialling 999.
Previously it has advised against using social media to make the service aware of fires as it is not monitored 24 hours a day. But it has acknowledged that the increasing proliferation of smart phones means they might actually get a swifter response.
First introduced in the London area on 30 June 1937, the UK’s 999 number is the world’s oldest emergency call service. The system was introduced following a fire on 10 November 1935 in a house on Wimpole Street in which five women were killed. A neighbour had tried to telephone the fire brigade and was so outraged at being held in a queue by the Welbeck telephone exchange that he wrote a letter to the editor of The Times, which prompted a government inquiry (even in those days).
In recent large fires in London the fire service have actually asked via twitter and other social media sites for local reports, photos and videos of fires to help them judge their initial response, and apparently it has enabled them to deal with incidents more effectively. So perhaps this is the way forward?
After all, when 999 calls were first introduced to summon assistance everyone apparently said it would never work!