Colorado fighting fire with social media

As the state works to contain the worst forest fires in its history, officials are turning to Twitter and other online channels to handle its crisis communications.

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As traditional media—newspapers and television—are doing their best to be a clearinghouse of information, social media has made it easier for people to get real-time information, without any filters or time delays, direct from sources.

Colorado had a dry run for this year’s fires last summer, when the state was again hit by blazes. At the time, law enforcement agencies had to change the way they communicated the news. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s office used its blog and Twitter to keep the public and the press updated about the Lower North Fork fire last March.

“The world has changed,” sheriff’s spokesman Mark Techmeyer told the Denver Post. “Traditionally, you had a press conference in the morning and the afternoon, but people won’t settle for that now. Our protocol is to make the emergency blog live and then a tweet goes out to link back to the blog. The speed and accuracy cannot be matched with a written press release and a press conference in three hours—those days are gone.”

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