Social media and emergencies

By Anna Carrera

Published 12/30 2013 04:18PM

Updated 12/30 2013 06:26PM

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY -- As social media grows, police and first responders are using it more to connect with people in the community. But there are some things you shouldn't use it for.

While many people use social media to connect with friends and family, police officers say they use it for more than that. From PSA's to video and pictures of people on the run, investigators say social media can help them reach thousands of people at once. Some of those people connect right back.

"Occasionally what happens is we'll get a message to Facebook or Twitter about something that's going on right now," said Urbana Police Lt. Rich Surles.

Call it a sign of the times -- people turning to social media in times of crisis. But officers say that may not be your best bet if there's an emergency.

"At Urbana, there's one person doing it - me," said Surles. "And so if I'm on vacation, I'm out of town, my Internet's down, something like that, I don't have access to it."

Instead of turning to your computer, police say there's a room full of dispatchers who are always on standby. They're the ones you should call if you need help right away.

"The traditional route of communication is critically important," said Surles. "If it's an emergency, pick up the phone and call 911."

If you feel like it's easier to turn to Facebook, Champaign Police, Urbana Police, University of Illinois Police and the Champaign County Sheriff's Department have phone numbers listed on their page, as well as non-emergency lines.

Copyright 2015 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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