Twitter on Wednesday announced a new initiative that will help users stay up-to-date with alerts from government and aid agencies during emergencies. Much like the government alerts Apple users experience, Twitter users that sign up will be sent notification through the Twitter app and even text messages (if you hand over your phone number) from a handful of agencies. Many names such as the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, Tokyo's Disaster Prevention service and the World Health Organization have all signed up.

Over the years, Twitter has become a trusted sources for breaking news, and is particularly useful during weather emergencies. Last year, Twitter demonstrated just how important the social network can be following the destruction of Hurricane Sandy. Before that, Twitter played a big part in rescue efforts after the devastating 2011 tsunami in Japan. The new alerts service will initially be available in the U.S., Japan and Korea, but will roll out to other countries soon.

Craig Fugate, FEMA administrator, applauded Twitter for its almost real-time information, and the ability for civilians and emergency officials to communicate so quickly and easily.

"Today we have a two-way street—residents are informed about hazards in real time and emergency managers receive immediate feedback on the consequence of a disaster," Fugate said.

Twitter is most widely known as a way for celebrities and everyday folks to muse about mundane events: going to the store, eating a sandwich, etc. But the service has evolved, and many today use it to spread news, communicate with important figures, get out messages, etc. Expanding on that for real-time alerts will only push the value of Twitter's platform. You can sign up to receive the notifications now.