For once, Facebook has a feature that is both useful and non-annoying. Its Safety Check is a special tool created for times of crisis and emergencies, such as natural disasters. In some cases, Facebook is the easiest tool to let people know how they’re doing in the middle of a calamity. That is, assuming they get access to the Internet. But with many major telcos supporting posting to Facebook via text messages, Safety Check could be a very helpful aid to keep loved ones in the loop.
Some peace of mind
According to its latest announcement, Facebook called its Safety Check a “simple and easy way to say you’re safe and check on others.”It promises to:
- Let friends and family know you’re safe
- Check on others in the affected area
- Mark your friends as safe
In case you have privacy concerns or aren’t keen on letting nosy reporters use your Facebook status when reporting, it will keep your content viewable to Facebook-friends only.
Japan being no stranger to disasters, it was no surprise that Facebook’s Japan engineers were the ones who took the first step towards Safety Check’s existence by building a Disaster Message Board to enable communication with others. A year later, they then launched a test of the tool which then got overwhelming response.
Facebook also learned from how people would use Facebook during disasters and then tweaked the Disaster Message Board in the light of all they learned. Safety Check will soon be made available on Android, IOS, feature phones and of course the PC.
How does it work? First you need to activate it after a disaster and should you be in the affected area, Facebook will ask you via a notification if you are all right.
Facebook will (almost creepily) determine your location from the following: your last location if you opted into the Nearby Friends feature, the city listed on your profile and the city you are currently using the Internet in.
Should Facebook get your location wrong, you can indicate that you’re outside the disaster zone. You can also select the “I’m Safe” option and Facebook will then generate a News Feed story as well as a notification. Your friends will also be able to mark you as safe.
The tool will also let you know how your friends are, with Facebook sending you a notification about friends who have marked themselves as safe.
“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,” said Facebook’s statement. For many people, their hope is that they never have to use it.
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