What Social Media is and what it isn’t. Twitter and Facebook were not designed for emergency police response.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON October 18, 2012   The Halton Regional Police have a problem on their hands.  Their mandate is to respond to public calls for help and in this part of the province they do that rather well.  We wouldn’t be known as one of the safest place in the country to live without an efficient responsive police force.

But those man and woman in blue don’t have crystal balls – they react to calls from the public.

Chief of Police Steve Tanner explains that Social Media is not the same as a 911 call

The police note that during the past few weeks,  there have been a number of public opinion surveys and news articles circulating regarding the use of social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, during an emergency or crisis situation.

“Some of these surveys indicated that a significant portion of the public believes that if they posted a Facebook status or tweeted a need for immediate police assistance, that police would be aware and respond, similar to a 9-1-1 call.

“Social media is an excellent way for police and other emergency services to have a dialogue with the public we serve, and it is a useful platform to exchange a wide variety of public safety information.  That said, it should not be used to contact police, fire or ambulance in the event of an immediate emergency or crisis.

“We want to remind the public that the first and only avenue people should use to contact police in the event of a crime in progress, immediate or imminent public safety risk, or other police-related emergency is to call 9-1-1,” said Halton Chief of Police Steve Tanner.

“During an emergency, a lot of critical and confidential information needs to be exchanged, often under duress, and our 9-1-1 Communicators are best equipped to do this, to ensure you get the help you need as quickly as possible,” explained Chief Tanner.

Social media sites are third-party public platforms, and as such, were never designed or intended to be an appropriate substitute for trained  9-1-1 communicators who are available to immediately answer emergency calls 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

As such, the public is reminded that the @HaltonPolice Twitter feed and official Facebook page are not monitored 24/7, nor do police personnel monitor an individual’s personal Twitter or Facebook accounts for emergency notifications.

“We absolutely encourage people to follow us on social media, and engage in a dialogue with us about their police-related questions or concerns – just not in an emergency situation where your safety or someone else’s is at risk,” said Chief Tanner.

If someone is uncertain if a situation warrants a 9-1-1 call, but is still a matter which requires police response they should call the non-emergency police line, which is also staffed 24/7.  In Halton, police non-emergency calls can be made to 905-825-4777, 905-878-5511, or 519-853-2111.

The Halton Regional Police Service official Twitter feed can be found at @HaltonPolice and our Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/HaltonRegionalPoliceService or visit our website at www.haltonpolice.ca


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