Facebook Eases Post-Disaster Fears with Safety Check Tool
When disaster strikes -- from hurricanes in South Florida to earthquakes in California and beyond -- people want assurances their loved ones are safe and sound. Facebook has noticed a trend: many of its users rely on the social media platform to find out how their friends and family are doing through status updates in the midst of the crisis.
With that trend in mind, Facebook has decided to help streamline communication for people in affected areas and for their loved ones who are anxious to find out how they are. The social media giant developed what it hopes is a helpful tool people can use in the wake of disaster. It’s called Safety Check.
During a major disaster, the tool will do three things: let friends and family know you’re safe; let you check on others in the affected area; and mark your friends as safe. If you are already having privacy concerns, don’t worry. Facebook is making assurances that only your friends will see your safety status and the comments you share.
“This is a potentially very helpful service in times of crisis and natural disaster,” Greg Sterling, Vice President of Strategy & Insights at the Local Search Association, told us. “One could leave it at that. However one might also say this is a way to keep people engaged with Facebook, to encourage them to enable location and another effort to make Facebook more ‘utilitarian.'”
A Practical Tool
Naomi Gleit, Vice President of Product Management, Sharon Zeng, Product Manager, and Peter Cottle, Software Engineer, announced the new tool. In the announcement, they pointed to the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Devastating is the right word. More than 12.5 million people were affected nationwide -- and over 400,000 people were evacuated -- according to the Japanese Red Cross.
“During that crisis we saw how people used technology and social media to stay connected with those they cared about,” the Facebookers said in a blog post. “Our engineers in Japan took the first step toward creating a product to improve the experience of reconnecting after a disaster. They built the Disaster Message Board to make it easier to communicate with others. They launched a test of the tool a year later and the response was overwhelming.”
Through disaster after disaster, Facebook has witnessed people, relief organizations and first responders turn to its platform to spread information. These crises have taught the company plenty about how people use the social media site during disasters, and inspired the crew to keep working on the Disaster Message Board, which eventually morphed into Safety Check. The free tool will work on Android, iOS, feature phones and the desktop.
How it Works
Here’s how it works: You can activate the tool in the wake of disaster and you’ll receive a Facebook notification asking if you’re safe. Facebook will automatically determine your location by looking at the city listed in your profile, your last location if you’ve opted in to the Nearby Friends product, and the city where you are using the Internet.
“If we get your location wrong, you can mark that you’re outside the affected area,” according to the blog post. “If you’re safe, you can select ‘I’m Safe’ and a notification and News Feed story will be generated with your update. Your friends can also mark you as safe.
“If you have friends in the area of a natural disaster and the tool has been activated, you will receive a notification about those friends that have marked themselves as safe. Clicking on this notification will take you to the Safety Check bookmark that will show you a list of their updates.”
Posted: 2014-10-17 @ 3:57am PT
Good to know since i live in Sacramento, Ca. and all my family lives in SATX and Fort Lauderdale, Fl. Extended family in NY and New Jersey.