TORONTO – During the height of evacuation procedures due to flooding in Calgary, emergency services lost the ability to communicate with the public through one of its most important channels – Twitter.
Calgary Police (@CalgaryPolice) had been using its Twitter account throughout the day Thursday to aid the public in mass evacuations caused by rain-induced flooding.
But late in the day, Twitter informed the department it had exceeded its daily allotment of tweets and froze the account – putting the police in ‘Twitter jail.’
‘Twitter jail’ – as most of the Twitterverse calls it – is when a user exceeds the daily limit of tweets, or direct messages, resulting in a lockdown of the account.
Most users seem to report experiencing a lockdown after tweeting more than 100 times per hour, or 1000 times per day. The lockdown can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours.
Calgary Police’s lockdown posed great difficulty to the social-media-savvy force which was working hard to directly respond to citizens tweeting at them to get more information about road closures and evacuations.
Luckily, Const. Jeremy Shaw of the Digital Communications Unit stepped up, taking over Twitter chores for the entire department.
He spread the word on evacuations and notifications, aided by the word being spread by followers and supporters such as the Saskatoon police department.
According to a report from The Canadian Press, Twitter eventually realized the error and restored the police department’s account. However, the account lockdown could have turned out much worse as the access to mobile information remains incredibly important to those affected by the flooding.
Global news contacted Twitter to get a statement regarding Calgary Police’s account lockdown and asked the social media giant to address what their policies are surrounding breaking news and emergency situations.
UPDATE: A Twitter spokesperson responded noting that Twitter does not comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons; however, they confirmed that there is indeed a limit of 1,000 tweets per day which is broken down into semi-hourly intervals.
The City of Calgary’s website also experienced outages Thursday due to the volume of traffic to the site.
It is unclear how long the outage lasted for.
The City of Calgary’s city news blog is relaying emergency information and includes links to the state of local emergency information, road closures, evacuation information and hourly updates.
Calgary Police are continuing their social media efforts.