Although some people may scoff at social media as a time-waster for self-absorbed teenagers, it has also proven to be a helpful tool when disaster strikes. Rather than posting memes, selfies, or photos of your cat, now you can instantly share your location with your friends and family, or let them know you're OK with the touch of a button.
Leading the way for other social platforms, Facebook has implemented a feature called Facebook Safety Check, which automatically sends a message to all account holders within a known disaster area, asking “are you safe?” Users can then hit “I'm safe” or “I'm not in the area” to notify their friends. In addition, Facebook allows users to view how many of their friends are in the affected area, how many have been marked safe, and how many haven't responded.
Alex Schultz, Facebook's Vice President of Growth, said in a recent post, “Communication is critical in moments of crisis, both for the people affected and for those far away who are anxious for news. People already turn to Facebook to check on loved ones and get updates during times like this, and we created Safety Check to make these connections even easier.”
While the Facebook Safety Check feature was originally launched in October 2014, at that time, it was only used in the event of natural disasters. More recently, however, it has expanded into other types of disasters, such as the November 13th terrorist attacks in Paris. This was the first time the feature has ever been used for something other than a natural disaster, and Facebook states they plan to activate it in future “serious and tragic incidents” from now on. In addition to putting friends and family members' minds at ease, its GPS location abilities could even be helpful to search and rescue operations or first responders.
So, what do you think of this feature—would you use it in a disaster? Give us your feedback in the comments below.
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