County departments a-Twitter

MCSO, others will use free medium to get information to residents

KINGMAN - Mohave County has a new treat for those who are sweet on Twitter tweets.

The County Health Department, Emergency Management and the Mohave County Sheriff's Office have banded together to create an account on the social networking Web site Twitter.

Twitter allows users to post text messages of up to 140 characters from the Internet or their cell phone to an account online. Other Twitter users can subscribe and read the messages of their favorite celebrities, friends, family members, pundits, sports players and more.

In order to subscribe to Mohave County's Twitter feed, visit www.twitter.com/mohaveinfo. Or search for Mohave Info on Twitter's Web site.

"It's a really good method to use to get information out there," said Jennifer McNally, assistant Mohave County health director. "It doesn't cost the county anything."

McNally was first exposed to the idea more than a year ago at a seminar on how local governments can use social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and others to connect and get the news out to local residents.

The county had considered going with another program other than Twitter, but it would have cost the county money in order to set it up and maintain it, she said.Twitter is free to anyone who uses it.

The Health Department doesn't have a daily stream of material that it needs to send out to the public, McNally said. So it partnered with Emergency Management and MCSO to make the service more useful for Mohave County residents.

"We wanted it to be valuable to residents," she said. "It's the perfect way to get information out."

Especially since Twitter messages can be sent directly to cell phones that accept text messages.

"Most people don't leave their home without their cell phone," McNally said. "This makes it easy to get out emergency information almost instantaneously to people countywide."

Information the county could broadcast across Twitter could include Amber Alerts, flood watches and health warnings, such as steps to take to guard against getting swine flu.

The county is not the only public entity that uses Twitter. Many federal offices, including the FBI and NASA - and even President Barack Obama - use Twitter to keep people informed. Many 2008 presidential candidates used Twitter to keep their followers informed.

Local governments are getting in on the fun as well, with many city and county governments using Twitter sites.