Facebook Launches ‘Safety Check’ Feature To Help Natural Disaster Victims
Facebook has announced a new feature that lets users connect with their friends and family during or after natural disasters. Dubbed Safety Check, the feature allows users alert their loved ones to the fact that they are safe, check on others caught in the disaster zone, and mark them as safe. Only friends will be able to see the safety status and the comments shared.
The feature will roll out globally on Android, iOS, basic feature phones, as well as desktops.
“In times of disaster or crisis, people turn to Facebook to check on loved ones and get updates,” the company said in a blog post. “It is in these moments that communication is most critical both for people in the affected areas and for their friends and families anxious for news.”
Safety Check is activated after a natural disaster, and if a user is in the affected area, Facebook will send a notification asking if they are safe. If the user really is, they can select “I’m Safe” option, which will generate a notification and News Feed Story with their update. Their friends can also mark them as safe, but the user has to approve it.
If you have friends located in a disaster zone and the tool is activated, you will receive a notification about friends that have marked themselves as safe. When you will click on this notification, it will take you to a list showing the updates.
Facebook says the tool determines the location of a user by looking at the city they have listed in their profile, their last location if they’ve signed up to the Nearby Friends product, and the last location where they used the Internet.
If Facebook gets the location wrong, users can mark that they’re outside the affected area.
Facebook says the Safety Check feature was prompted by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 and affected more than 12.5 million people nationwide.
“During that crisis we saw how people used technology and social media to stay connected with those they cared about,” Facebook said in a statement. At that time, the company’s engineers in Japan built the Disaster Message Board with an aim to make it easier for people to communicate with others.
The team continued to work on that project, which has now become Safety Check, which the company believes will help people to connect with their loved ones “when it matters most.”
However, Safety Check is not the only tool that lets natural disaster victims to reconnect with their family and friends, Google Person Finder tool has already been successfully used during several crisis situations.