It’s never been easier to disseminate information fast. Some public safety agencies are taking better advantage of that than others.

San Diegans looking to track a brush fire that first broke out near Del Norte High School and quickly spread across hundreds of acres would do well to follow two sources on Twitter:

• The San Diego Police Department, which has a near-constant thread of street closures, evacuations and containment updates; and

• The Rancho Santa Fe Fire Department – ditto.

Both of those sources also directed followers to another information hub: the San Diego County Emergency Site, which includes a set of Twitter lists prepared by @ReadySanDiego, periodic updates and a map detailing a temporary evacuation point, the broader “Emergency Notification Area” and the overall fire perimeter.

The San Diego Fire Department, on the other hand, left something to be desired when it comes to public updates. While it’s expected the bulk of active firefighters would be out, you know, fighting the fire, a department media team could conceivably staff the main channels of communication – just like the SDPD has done to publicize evacuations. One firefighter within the department piped up as an especially vocal critic:

@vosdscott Sometimes I’m embarrassed by the agency I work for. This is one of those times.

— robert bunsold (@RobertBunsold) May 13, 2014

@vosdscott Yes. This is an active incident within the City that is affecting many. #Pathetic use of FREE modern technology to inform…

— robert bunsold (@RobertBunsold) May 13, 2014

@vosdscott …and protect the public we are sworn to serve. (Off my soap box now to report to HQ for my 40 lashings)

— robert bunsold (@RobertBunsold) May 13, 2014

And the county’s emergency department, where several other agencies were directing users to, wasn’t doing such a hot job itself. The site’s app apparently alerted users of an evacuation due to “fire in your pants” at the same time broad swaths of the city’s northern areas were actually being evacuated.

Fires in San Diego! But SDEmergency app says its in my pants?!?!? @ReadySanDiego #fail

— Ken Brucker (@sei_ryu) May 13, 2014

A spokesman for the SDFD did not respond immediately to questions on how the department distributes information or what resources the public should check to stay on top of developments.

Catherine Green

Catherine Green was formerly the deputy editor at Voice of San Diego. She handled daily operations while helping to plan new long-term projects.

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