Twitter partners with emergency aid groups to launch mobile disaster alerts

In recent years, people have turned to Twitter for quick information about emergency situations.

In the immediate aftermath, however, it's tough to know what's true and who to trust. Twitter is moving to change that with Twitter Alerts, which will provide users with notifications about emergency situations from trusted sources.

"Twitter Alerts ... brings us one step closer to helping users get important and accurate information during emergencies, natural disasters or when other communications services aren't accessible," Twitter said in a blog post.

Twitter has partnered with dozens of organisations, including the American Red Cross, FEMA, the World Health Organization, and various state and local groups.

To subscribe to these alerts, visit the groups' alert pages, which can be found by adding '/alerts' to the end of their Twitter addresses. The FEMA page, for example, is located at twitter.com/fema/alerts. There, you can click the "Activate Alerts" button.

Twitter will ask you to enter your phone number to receive Twitter Alerts via SMS, at which point you will need to send a confirmation text. Then, when the organisation sends you an alert, you will receive a text message.

Those using the Twitter iOS and Android apps (iOS 5.1+ and Android 4.1.6+) will also get push notifications. Meanwhile, tweets from the group will be designated with an orange bell in your feed. You can stop the alerts by texting "stop" to the confirmation number, or by unchecking "Tweet Alerts" under Mobile in your settings.

According to Twitter, a group can determine when they send an alert, but they will most likely be reserved for: warnings for imminent dangers; preventive instructions; evacuation directions; urgent safety alerts; information on access to essential resources; information on critical transit and utility outages; and crowd and misinformation management.

Twitter pointed to FEMA tweets that provided details on shelters for those affected by Hurricane Sandy last year.