Fire chiefs and emergency responders from across Ontario gathered in Sudbury on Thursday to discuss how to use social media like Twitter and Facebook to educate people on fire prevention and safety.

Fire safety conference

A volunteer plays a fire safety video game at a conference on safety and prevention in Sudbury on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. (Chris Berube/CBC)

The annual Fire and Life Safety Educators’ Conference was held this week. Social media was at the top of the agenda.

"We're talking to a different demographic,” said Ted Wieclawek, Ontario’s head fire marshall. “Today we got to use things like Facebook and Twitter because our younger generation, that's how they connect."

In a recent Ipsos Reid poll surveying Canadians, 64 per cent of respondents said they turn to social networks in an emergency, including floods, tornadoes and even house fires.

It also showed that 63 per cent think that EMS departments should answer calls for help on Twitter and Facebook. One-third of survey participants believe that emergency workers actually do respond to requests for help posted online.

Sudbury's Deputy Fire Chief Graham Campbell says getting used to the new technology has been a challenge for emergency services.

"Being the fire service, we're all a bit older, longer in the tooth. So we're not necessarily used to the social media,” he said. “But it's become a way of communication now."

Sudbury’s fire department says it is planning to set up a Twitter account, but is still uncertain about how it will monitor for emergency calls.

Campbell says social media is a mixed blessing for the fire services industry.

"We're getting trucks on scene to a fire and on Facebook, people are already posting pictures of that fire,” he said. “I know if it was my house on fire, I don't know if I'd want that picture posted all over the internet."