NEW YORK -- Twitter is launching an alerts feature that lets U.S. users receive emergency notices as text messages.

Alerts are available from the American Red Cross, the Centers for Disease Control, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal and local groups. If users sign up to receive Twitter alerts from one of these groups, they will get a text message notification whenever the group sends a tweet marked as an alert.

Twitter says alerts will also be marked with an orange bell icon to differentiate them from regular tweets.

The move follows a feature called “lifeline”, which Twitter launched in Japan last year. It underscores the services’ growing role in delivering fast information in an emergency.

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Online:

Twitter’s blog post: http://j.mp/1dJAHrW