If you follow the “911 crowd” on Twitter you can’t help but notice @YRP, the official Twitter handle for the York Regional Police in Ontario Canada, providing updates and information on activities, investigations, events and general safety tips.
Earlier this month while scanning the Twitter-verse for a story concept for this blog, I noticed Tweet after Tweet from @YRP that contained the hashtag #yrpnights. But what caught my eye, was the fact that these Twitter posts didn’t originate from the ground. That’s right, York Regional Police added social media to AIR2, their sleek 200k/ph Eurocopter EC120B tactical airborne platform, known to you and I as a “police chopper”.
For quite some time now I’ve been a fan of @YRP, and there extensive use of social media to reach out to the public. Adding social media to AIR2, was probably just the next logical step that this department is taking to communicate with the public, and is a fantastic example of how Public Safety needs to reach out to the community using the modes of communication most comfortable with that community.
Obviously, taking to Twitter, will target communications at a wide community including our younger generation, but it will also reach a wide community who may not be active contributors on Twitter, but monitor various activities in real time on tablets and smartphones.
The more progressive governments have learned that community interaction goes far beyond their web presence, their Facebook page, and even their Public Information Office staff. The tools already exist to monitor and interact with communities, but there is no reason why that level of interaction needs to remain within the brick-and-mortar infrastructure. Today’s culture has become immediate in nature and demands real-time information and updates on just about anything from emergency situations too large public events.
Sending live tweets from the helicopter crew provides a “virtual ride along” that would be almost impossible to re-create without the involvement of a camera crew, and the postproduction editing. All of that equals time spent producing, and not delivering content. Right now, by following @YRP and #YRPNights, you’ll find a series of updates on what’s happening around York, and you’ll even catch some great night and day photography from their vantage point high above the city as well as the occasional infrared FLIR image.
This infrared technology detects differences in heat on the nearest surface to the camera. For example if a person is walking across the field the person would be displayed as high, as they are admitting greater amounts of heat than the field there walking on. One common myth is that helicopters and FLIR technology can see through windows into your home. This simply isn’t true because glass is a reflective surface to infrared technology, and a person walking outside your window can see better into your home than the helicopter possibly could. Still this is a common question and included on their Frequently Asked Questions page located at http://www.yrp.ca/airfaq.aspx
I’ll continue to follow @YRP, and we’ll see if we can summarize the success of this program of reaching down from above with Social Media.