Twitter just launched a very cool feature in Japan called Lifeline. It allows Japanese users of Twitter to use their postal code to find and follow local accounts that are important in emergencies.

These could be accounts that are maintained by city, district or prefecture governments, which will be updating in the event of natural disasters or emergencies. These accounts could also include local media and utility companies that are informing customers about electricity outages or other necessary services.

This is fantastic because it means that users who may not already follow any of those accounts can quickly get access to that information when a disaster hits. They just slam in their postal code and boom, they have access to the most important information right away.

You may recall that, following an earthquake in Virginia in August of last year, the Department of Homeland Security in the US actually recommended that people use Twitter and Facebook (along with text and email) to communicate with family members. This was to avoid jamming up calling lines for emergency services and staff.

“Since Twitter often becomes a de facto lifeline during crises everywhere,” says Twitter product manager Jinen Kamdar, “we hope to eventually expand this functionality to more locations around the world.”

Lifeline is a Japan-only feature at the moment, where Kamdar says that Twitter has partnered with regional governments and the Prime Minister’s Lifeline Commission to make this happen.

The new product’s launch follows Twitter’s emergency service potential being tested as part of an earthquake drill in Tokyo earlier this week.

Image Credit: LAURENT FIEVET/Getty