PG&E using Twitter to update public on fire response

The natural-gas explosion in San Bruno, Calif., near San Francisco, on Thursday night that left at least four people dead and dozens injured has prompted Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to use Web tools such as Twitter to keep area residents updated on the response and investigation by authorities.

An explosion in PG&E's natural-gas pipeline at 6 p.m. on Thursday sent an 80-foot fireball streaking into the sky and caused fires that destroyed 45 homes and injured dozens. Soon after reports of the explosion surfaced, PG&E began using Twitter to refer survivors to the Red Cross for assistance and update area residents on the situation. The utility company initially cut power for almost 6,000 area residents to help first responders.

Residents can follow PG&E's Twitter account for updates. The company will also likely take a lesson from BP, which launched an online crisis-management page following the Gulf oil spill earlier this year.

"We have yet to be able to get close enough to the source to determine what happened, but we are diligently working toward this. We are committed to doing what is right and what is appropriate to help all the families and others impacted by this tragedy," PG&E tweeted before noon on Friday.

Update: Google has created a map depicting the location of the explosion, as well as nearby shelters and resources. You can read Google's blog post on the subject here, which notes the explosion took place just two miles from YouTube headquarters.