Are You Safe? Facebook Introduces Safety Check For Natural Disasters & Crises
People in areas hit by disasters will get push notification that will allow them to indicate they are safe.
Did you feel it? Are you safe?
Social media has become the default communication medium during natural disasters and other crises. With its unmatched speed and worldwide reach, there’s no better way to gather — and push out — information about humans in danger.
Today Facebook announced a feature, called Safety Check, that builds upon that base of crisis-fueled social interaction, promising users a way to quickly notify their friends that they are OK, and a way to check the safety status of friends in affected areas. Facebook engineers in Japan started work on the tool after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in the country. “Unfortunately, these kinds of disasters happen all too frequently,” Facebook wrote in a blog post. “Each time, we see people, relief organizations and first responders turn to Facebook in the aftermath of a major natural disaster.”
It makes sense for Facebook to create such a product, given its tightly knit friend-to-friend network. Twitter, with its real-time emphasis, tends to dominate the public discourse about major events. There’s no doubt that Facebook’s 1.3 billion users are sharing information about disasters too, but some of that activity might not be immediately surfaced on users’ News Feeds. Safety Check will apparently ensure that happens.
Here’s how it will work. During major disasters, Facebook says it will send push notifications — on iOS, Android, feature phone and desktop — to people in the affected areas, giving them a chance to declare that they are safe. People who respond to the message will generate a notification and News Feed story that will only go to their friends.
Location will be determined by the city listed in users’ profiles, last location if a user has opted in to the Nearby Friends and the city where the users Internet connection originates. If Facebook has gotten the location wrong, the targeted person can indicate he or she is not in the affected area.
And if you have friends in an affected area, you will receive a notification about friends who have marked themselves as safe. Clicking on the notification will take you to the Safety Check bookmark that will show you a list of updates about the incident.
Read more about the new feature on the Facebook blog.