Local Resolutions Part 10 of 29
This is the tenth in a series of 29 ways to help your local community online in 2010. If you missed it, you may wish to read the introductory post.
In this post, I suggest that subscribing to local Amber Alerts is a great way to help others from behind the comfort of your keyboard. This series has included recent posts about becoming a fan of local pages on Facebook, playing the local arts critic, and making lists on Twitter.
The Amber Alert system in the United States is a powerful thing.
Few things are as horrifying as when a child is abducted and in imminent danger of death or severe harm. The Amber Alert system cuts through the clutter and says, “Everyone, we need to find this child, fast.”
Amber Alerts are not issued for children who have run away from home, or for when there’s a custody dispute. They’re only issued when the situation is dire.
For years, the Amber Alert system has benefited from the cooperation of partners within broadcast media. It later began encouraging individuals to sign up to receive Amber Alerts by e-mail or by text message on their cell phones.
From broadcast media to social media
Today, I think it’s time we partner with the Amber Alert system to bring these urgent announcements into social media.
For those of you who live or work in Lancaster County, PA, all you have to do is follow this Twitter account: LancAmber.
If we’re lucky, posts from this account will be rare. They come automatically from the Pennsylvania State Police.
By posting local Amber Alerts to Twitter, it puts them in front of more eyes, particularly of people who are actually out and about, since Twitter is so mobile-friendly. It also makes the alerts easy to pass on via retweets.
Another benefit to having an Twitter account automatically posting Amber Alerts relevant to Lancaster County is that the messages will be reliable. If you search Google’s live results for “amber alert,” you will find lots of warnings about alerts that are bogus, malevolent, or way outdated.
How I set up the account
There are a few ways to do this, none of them especially easy, since few law enforcement agencies offer up-to-the-minute RSS feeds. If you think another way is easier or better, please let me know.
What I chose to do was to first set up an account at TwitterMail.com, a free service that allows you to update your Twitter stream by sending an e-mail. Then I went to the official Amber Alert site of the Pennsylvania State Police and signed up to receive Amber Alerts for Lancaster County via e-mail. Instead of using my personal e-mail address, I used the “secret” address provided for me by TwitterMail. Now, when the state police issue an Amber Alert for the Lancaster area, their e-mail will be posted directly as a tweet from LancAmber.
So, to recap:
- Log in to Twitter and follow @LancAmber.
- When you see a tweet from that account, read and retweet it.
- For good measure, you may wish to sign up to receive Amber Alerts on your cell phone. You can do so at WirelessAmberAlerts.org or at alert.pa.gov.
- If you have a blog or website, consider adding a state-wide Amber Alert Gadget or Amber Alert RSS feed to it.
- If your county or region is not making use of Twitter to spread Amber Alerts, set up an account as I’ve described above. Let me know if you run into problems.
When it comes right down to it, I don’t think there is anything worth defending more than the lives of children. Tuning in for Amber Alerts is simple, especially now that they’re on Twitter.