Homeland Security to post terror alerts via Facebook, Twitter

COLUMBIA (WACH, AP) -- Status updates and tweets will be replacing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's color-coded terrorism warnings.

A plan for the government's new system recommends sharing threat information on Facebook and Twitter, according to the Associated Press. It will only have two levels of warnings: elevated and imminent.

Chief Randy Scott of the Columbia Police Department isn TMt surprised by the change in communication by Homeland Security.

His department is six months into using Facebook for everything from crime alerts to event advisories.

As law enforcement, we need to keep up with the trends of society, says Chief Randy Scott, and one of those ways information is put out is through social media.

Scott adds Columbia Police is also on Nixle, a news feed program similar to Twitter.

Generally people would have to wait to find out what is going on and now it is instantaneous.

Social networking sites can easily allow authorities to distribute information to people in a fast and effective way. For example, Facebook has more than 500 million users worldwide.

It's unknown how often the public will receive the online messages from Homeland Security but it will depend on the significance of the threat.

I think it might start to scare people, says USC student Danielle Miller.

"That sounds a little much, adds USC student Paul Smith.

Homeland Security has yet to post any terror advisories to its Facebook or Twitter accounts @NTASAlerts, however, when it does almost 15,000 users currently receive the notification directly.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)