Facebook was founded on the premises of keeping people connected. Now, Facebook has even furthered its features with a new Safety Check. Last week, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, announced the rollout of a new feature that will keep people connected even in times of natural disasters. This feature lets you tell your friends and family that you’re safe by clicking the Safety Check that will populate in the case of a natural disaster in your area.
Facebook in Japan created a similar tool after the 2011 9.0 magnitude earthquake that spurred a devastating tsunami. After the earthquake, which affected over 12.5 million people, a Disaster Message Board was created for Facebook users to notify family and friends of safety statuses. Over the last several years, Facebook has modified and tested the tool for use in future disasters.
Facebook has over 1.3 billion users monthly, which is a large number of people all over the world that could be affected by natural disasters. The Facebook Newsroom stated, “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. We want to provide a helpful tool that people can use when major disasters strike, so we’ve created Safety Check—a simple and easy way to say you’re safe and check on others.”
How it works
First, the tool must be activated for the notifications to work. When a natural disaster occurs, Facebook will use your phone’s location services data and the city you have listed in your profile to determine if you’re within the affected area. When the tool is activated, and if you are in the affected area, Facebook will send a notification asking if you’re safe.
If you are safe, you can select the button that says “I’m Safe” then a notification and a News Feed story will generate with your update. If you have friends in the area that have marked themselves as safe you will receive a notification stating this status. The Safety Check bookmark will show you a list of updates from friends, and family in the affected areas, and show those who have or have not marked their safety. If you know the safety of a friend you will also be able to mark them as safe.
There have already been many implications for the use of this tool in other contexts. Based on the comments below the press release, people are hoping this tool can be further developed for other crises like shootings, bombings and other unsafe situations, not just natural disasters.
Facebook concluded its press release with, “If you’re ever in a situation that would require you to use Safety Check, we hope it’s a tool that helps you stay connected to those you care about, and gives you the comfort of knowing your loved ones are safe.” Facebook has come a long way since its beginning days, but it has always stayed true to keeping people connected.
Would you use this feature? How would you like to see it further developed?
If you enjoyed this post from Elizabeth, you might like some of her other blog posts.
Elizabeth Muckensturm – Communication and Media Professor