Nearly every natural disaster seems to trigger panicked Facebook messages and wall posts to loved ones who may have been affected. Now Facebook is launching Safety Check, a way for users to tell all their Facebook friends they are safe during an emergency.
Facebook users who activate Safety Check will receive a notification if a natural disaster hits near their location, which will be determined by the city listed on a user’s profile, where they last used the Internet, or the last location used on the Nearby Friends feature. A message pops up indicating the user appears to be near the affected area, and he or she can select either “I’m safe” or “I’m not in the area.”
When disaster strikes, friends of those who may be affected will be notified when friends indicate they are safe. They also can check a list of friends who were possibly nearby and see who has been marked safe and who has not yet responded.
The catalyst for this new feature was Facebook’s Japanese engineers. “During [the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan], we saw how people used technology and social media to stay connected with those they cared about. 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,” Facebook said in a press release.