Twitter's Tokyo team has partnered with the Japanese government to launch Lifeline, a hub for disaster-related information. The new service is based on postal codes rather than Twitter's topic-based hashtags, making critical information faster and easier to find.
Typing in a postal code will result in tweets from locals in the affected area, utility companies, government agencies and local media. Japanese users can also set up notifications to receive tweets from these accounts as text messages — often the only communication available when networks become overloaded with voice calls.
The new service is available only to Japanese residents, but it may become available to other disaster-prone locations.
"Since Twitter often becomes a de facto lifeline during crises everywhere, we hope to eventually expand this functionality to more locations around the world," wrote Jinen Kamdar, the Lifeline project manager in Japan , on Twitter's blog.