Social media are a useful means of communication for Civil Protection, especially in the management of major emergencies. In Italy, Civil Protection Voluntary Associations base many activities on the use of social media. Indeed, it is common for volunteers to set up WhatsApp or Telegram groups to interact with each other and exchange information, photos and videos on ongoing emergencies. These systems are useful, but at the same time unstructured, since what happens within the chats cannot be consulted or controlled directly by Emergency Operation Centers.
To support the Civil Protection in the best possible way, Beta 80 Group, through its Safety 1st platform, has set up a two-way integration with Telegram. Telegram is an instant messaging service, similar to WhatsApp, which differs by being open to integration with third-party software through the use of bots, i.e. Telegram accounts managed by external software.
Telegram for emergencies: how it works
The integration between Safety 1st and Telegram operates through 3 basic steps:
Sending messages to Civil Protection volunteers and Emergency Operation Centers. Each volunteer, member of an accredited group (or channel), has the possibility of sending messages not only to his colleagues, but also to the relevant Emergency Operation Center. Structured alerts are forwarded through specific sequences, establishing an indicator (or code) for the beginning and end of the message. For example, if the user wishes to report a fire, he may insert the initial character #inc in the message and send text, images, geographic locations in relation to what he is reporting, concluding the communication with a final code (for example ###).
Organisation of information. A Telegram bot connected to Safety 1st intercepts this sequence and sends it to the Operation Center software, which transforms it according to the logic of the application. In this way, the operator in the Operation Center receives all the information about the event in real time, in the form of a structured report.
Event management and activation of procedures. For communication with the Civil Protection volunteer group, the Operation Center can pilot the messages directly from the Operation Center software without having to access the Telegram account. The processed message is intercepted by the bot and published on the relevant channel.
The integration between Telegram and Safety 1st: all the advantages
The advantages of this innovative operating method, made possible by the integration between Safety 1st and Telegram, are:
Reduced management time for communications. The operator does not need to phone the Emergency Operation Center or use a specific tool to interact with its system. The only permissible means is a message sent to a Telegram channel.
Significant reduction in errors. The reported information is not carried over by an intermediate user and does not have to be rewritten and reprocessed by the operator. This drastically reduces the possibility of errors in message transfer and understanding.
Localisation of emergencies in the area directly from the smartphone. Providing the location always has a margin for inaccuracy. However, thanks to the integration betweeen Safety 1st and Telegram, it is possible to give the location of alerts with greater accuracy, using the GPS functions of your device.
Sharing information in real time. Each Civil Protection volunteer has the possibility of communicating simultaneously with both their colleagues and the Emergency Operation Center via the Telegram channel.
Civil Protection and social media: future prospects
The use of social media to intercept emergencies and to communicate more effectively is a topic of great interest in the Emergency & Crisis Management sector, and Beta 80 Group is planning new investments in this regard in 2023.
Over the past few years, the entire company has worked to support Civil Protection at every stage of the emergency management process, facilitating the activity of searching for, receiving and interpreting reports that arrived directly from citizens.
The integration between Safety 1st and Telegram represents the evolution of Safety 1st Act, the iOS and Android app dedicated to the operator, which facilitates dialogue between the territory and the Emergency Operation Center. This innovation eliminates the need to install further applications on your device since it is based on the use of existing tools. In the near future, the aim is to use the bot also to send automatic communications, for example, information on the evolution of the management of alerts.