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City of Charlotte now using Facebook to communicate during emergencies

“During an emergency we want everyone to have the right information to make the right decisions, so this allows us to do that."

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The City of Charlotte is now one of 350 local governments from across the country using Facebook to help communicate with residents during emergencies and times of crisis. 

The Facebook tool is called Local Alerts and allows the city to send alerts to anyone within a certain geographic location. 

“Communications is about getting the right information to the right person at the right time and this is one of our methods for doing that,” said Ken Brown, the Strategic Digital Communications Manager for the City of Charlotte. 

Brown said the city communicates with residents through a number of platforms, but that Facebook’s new local alert system allows them to reach a greater number of people, and faster. 

“So typically one of our posts would maybe reach a few thousand folks, once it’s tagged as an alert it can reach tens of thousands of people,” he said. 

Brown says the messages pertain to a range of emergencies including mandatory evacuations, bomb threats, and even active shooters. During the UNC Charlotte shooting, Brown says the city used the alert system to help share information being released by CMPD. 

“We wanted to be a good partner to their messages with any family or students who needed the information to make sure it hit everyone needed,” he said. 

In addition to emergencies, Brown says the system will also be used to communicate extreme temperature warnings, missing people reports and to announce major changes in service to public transportation, similar to what the city experienced during the NBA All-star game held Uptown. 

“During an emergency we want everyone to have the right information to make the right decisions, so this allows us to do that," Brown said. "What a user will see is the post and they’ll see a small icon on the top left that shows it’s an alert and the alert will last anywhere from 1 hour to 24 hours and once it expires, that alert will go away."

Brown said the city also has the ability to only send the alert to those the message pertains to.  

“If an impact is only relevant to a certain area, we can hone it into that area so only the folks who are impacted get that message," he said.

To receive the alerts, Brown said you just have to be within city limits and have location services enabled on your phone.