How @FRNSW uses Twitter to keep the public safe

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Fire & Rescue NSW (@FRNSW) joined Twitter in August 2010. By November 2011, we had just over 1,000 followers and had Tweeted nine times – not a whole lot of activity!

Today, we have more than 33,000 followers and Twitter is a key part of how we communicate with our community and keep people updated during critical incidents. Here’s how we got there.

Organisational support
For any agency, business or company using Twitter, the support of the executive team is key. Our @FRNSW Commissioner Greg Mullins recognised Twitter as a live and effective way to communicate and engage with the public. Commissioner Mullins empowered the @FRNSW Media Team, under the direction of the Assistant Director, to develop strategies and internal guidelines and to manage and grow the @FRNSW Twitter account.

We put a strategy in place to use Twitter to alert the community and media about significant statewide incidents and fire operations as well as fire safety initiatives and tips. Twitter also helps us to easily provide @FRNSW audio, picture and video content to the media in real time.

Immediate and accurate
The @FRNSW account is managed by our media team during business hours with a small team on-call for major incidents, using Twitter as required. Each Tweet is composed by media officers who closely monitor operations throughout the state, watching significant events on the @FRNSW computer-aided dispatch system. They listen to radio traffic and are notified of major incidents via SMS from @FRNSW emergency communications centres in Newcastle and Sydney.

Because so many people rely on the information contained within @FRNSW Tweets, all incidents and details are verified with our emergency communications centres or fire crews at the actual incident before Tweeting.

Tweets from the ground
To assist live media with information gathering, @FRNSW also regularly deploys our media officers to larger incidents to gather and provide information, work closely with the media on the ground and ensure that important messages get to the community.

This means we can use Twitter to tell the story of what is going on at the scene: recording ‘grabs’ with firefighters to describe what’s happened, capture pictures and video at the scene, and to work with firefighters and journalists to coordinate interviews as required.

Content is key
A picture tells a thousand words. Where possible – and without compromising people’s privacy or showing victims of fire or accidents – @FRNSW will Tweet photos that show the complexities of our firefighters’ work. Our Tweets highlight the situations they face in both our regional and outer metropolitan areas.

Our @FRNSW media rich content is very popular with news agencies, especially those unable to send their own crews to incidents. Video captured at the scene can be embedded in Tweets, allowing @FRNSW to provide important updates from large incidents and links to live @FRNSW media video when in operation. Our video content also includes safety messages, recruitment and corporate messaging. All of these Tweets can be embedded in news websites.

What’s going on
During an incident, @FRNSW often provides several Tweets about the work we’re doing:
● Initial notification – what our firefighters are responding to
● On scene and getting to work – what our firefighters are doing to successfully resolve an emergency; and
● All clear – a quick wrap-up when the job is complete

What you can do in an emergency
While the community can use Twitter to keep updated, people should always remember to report emergencies by calling Triple Zero (000). Visit for more details.
If you have a smartphone, it’s a great idea to have the Emergency+ app as a simple and effective way of telling emergency services where you are and what the emergency is.