During times of natural disaster and crisis, people often turn to social media, particularly Facebook, to communicate with their loved ones that they are okay. Facebook has witnessed from recent disasters and crises how people use the social media site to respond and spread information. These are the critical moments that communication is needed to obtain the facts and ease any uncertainty from friends, family and other people who may be affected.
The devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan saw more than 400,000 people evacuated and affected over 12.5 million people nationwide. This particular crisis uncovered how people use technology and social media platforms to ensure their loved ones safety. Since then, Facebook’s Japanese engineers have developed a tool for these situations, called Safety Check.Unveiled by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg earlier this month, the new Safety Check feature is available worldwide to the social networks 1.32 billion users on mobile and desktop versions, including its Android and iOS apps.Here’s how it works:People already use Facebook to update and tell people that they are okay after a crisis or disaster. This can be done via Facebook status updates and messages. Safety Check streamlines this process. Instead of constant back and forth messages to your friends, Safety Check lets you reply with one push and all of your connections will be notified.When a natural disaster occurs and you are in the affected area, Facebook will send you a notification asking if you’re safe. It will determine your location using the city you have listed on your Facebook profile, the last location you have shared or from the city you are using the internet.If you are outside the affected area, you can mark “I’m not in the area”. If you are in the area you can mark “I’m Safe” and a notification and News Feed update will generate your updates to all of your Facebook friends. This is the same if your friends and family are in the affected area of the disaster. You will also receive a notification about those friends that have marked themselves as safe.Safety Check has the potential to spare many people the heartache and anxiety to know their family and friends who may be affected by a crisis or natural disaster are safe. Facebook has done it again with the convenient push of a button!Final WordWe can clearly see Facebook innovating all the time and not just in terms of their core social media and advertising activities. Producing this additional function goes to show the company is mindful of 'helping' where they can but also it shows the vast power of the social media giant that during a disaster, Facebook is one of the first places people will go to get information.