Facebook 'Safety Check' Connects Users After Disasters - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Software // Social
News
10/16/2014
12:06 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Facebook 'Safety Check' Connects Users After Disasters

Facebook tool helps people quickly broadcast their well-being to friends and family after a natural disaster.

Tech In Far-Flung Settings
Tech In Far-Flung Settings
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

As frivolous as Facebook can be, it's where many people turn when disaster strikes. Facebook announced a new feature Thursday to help users broadcast their well-being and check on friends and family members who may have been affected by natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, or tsunamis.

"Safety Check" will be available globally on iOS, Android, feature phones, and desktops, the social network said in an announcement. If you're in the affected area when a natural disaster strikes, Facebook will send a push notification asking if you're safe.

Facebook says it will determine your location based on information such as the city you list on your profile, the location where you're using the Internet, and Nearby Friends, a feature that tracks your location, if you have it enabled.

If you receive a push notification and are not in the location of the disaster, you can mark that you're outside the affected area. If you're safe, mark that option, and Facebook will send a notification to your friends and post to their news feeds that you're OK.

[Catch up on the latest Facebook changes. Read Facebook: 10 New Changes That Matter.]

If you have friends in the affected area, Facebook will notify you about the ones who have marked themselves safe. You can also click the notification to take you to the Safety Check bookmark that will display a list of their updates, the social network said. Only your friends will see your safety status and any comments you share.

Facebook said it developed the tool after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which affected more than 12.5 million people. "During that crisis we saw how many people used technology and social media to stay connected with those they cared about."

Safety Check grew out the Disaster Message Board, a tool that Facebook engineers tested a year after the disaster in Japan.

"Unfortunately, these kinds of disasters happen all too frequently. Each time, we see people, relief organizations, and first responders turn to Facebook in the aftermath of a major natural disaster," Facebook said.

Google has also offered tools to help people following crises. It launched a Crisis Response page that highlights information such as storm paths, shelter locations, emergency numbers, and donation opportunities. It has also launched Google Person Finder pages to help people connect with friends and family who may have been affected.

Just when conventional wisdom had converged around the cloud being a software story, there are signs that the server market is poised for an upset, too. Get the 2014 State of Server Technology report today (free registration required).

Kristin Burnham currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and CIO.com, most recently as senior ... View Full Bio

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Kristin Burnham
50%
50%
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
10/27/2014 | 9:02:49 PM
Re: Nearby Friends
@Joe Haha. It's a creepy feature, which is why I'd never turn it on. I don't need everyone to know where I am (and I don't really care where anyone else is). Too much stalking potential.
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
10/22/2014 | 1:43:30 AM
Re: Facebook as a utility
Thanks, Alison.  :)

In terms of friends and family members checking in, you have to remember that most of the world is not like us; they are not connected 24/7 like us tech-heads.  ;)  As such, unlike the social media nerds and the hipsters, they are not likely to go right to FB, Twitter, and LinkedIn immediately after a disaster.

Reminds me of an image that went viral some years ago--of a sign that reads: "IN CASE OF FIRE, EXIT BUILDING BEFORE TWEETING ABOUT IT".
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
10/21/2014 | 10:57:49 PM
Re: Nearby Friends
The "Nearby Friends" feature is ridiculous.

I remember my first encounter with it.  It told me about one of my female friends being at some local bridal shop with a bunch of other women (I think she was a bridesmaid for someone's wedding).

What was I supposed to do with that information?  Just show up and be like, "Hello, ladies"?  > > > ;)
Alison_Diana
50%
50%
Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
10/20/2014 | 12:46:12 PM
Re: Facebook as a utility
In instances like this, I would definitely default to Facebook to see whether loved ones are okay. I've already done it when things like earthquakes or wildfires hit wide regions of the country and i'm not quite sure how close friends live to an affected region. (I remember when you posted the "I'm fine" message on FB after the Boston bombing, btw, Joe and it was a big relief.) 

It's also a reason I'm mildly upset many family members don't use FB or even Twitter; at least if they had a minimal presence on social media they could use it to check in if something catastrophic happened in their region. If, as I hope never happens, something bad does occur in their regions, I'll have to go back to the old-fashioned route of jammed phone lines and crossed fingers to try to reach them!
Kristin Burnham
50%
50%
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
10/20/2014 | 10:32:06 AM
Nearby Friends
Safety Check made me think about Facebook's "Nearby Friends" feature. I would never turn this on under normal circumstances because I think it's unnecessary for everyday use, but what if you knew your area would be hit by a severe natural disaster like a hurricane? Coupled with Safety Check, I'd certainly consider turning it on, if just for the short term. 
Kristin Burnham
50%
50%
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
10/20/2014 | 10:29:04 AM
Re: So this is...
I remember a similar response to a friend's post after the Virginia Tech shooting. Amid the chaos, a friend we were concerned about posted that he was ok, to the relief of everyone. Facebook's Safety Check may not be perfect in all scenarios, but it's worthwhile if it helps some people. 
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
10/17/2014 | 7:48:14 AM
Re: So this is...
FWIW, I remember after the Boston Marathon bombing I posted a simple "Loved ones and I are okay" to my Facebook feed.

Neither before nor since have I had a more-Liked status.
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
10/17/2014 | 7:46:11 AM
Facebook as a utility
The especially brilliant thing about this is that Facebook is taking an already popular use of its service and expanding upon it, elevating its own service from a mere "service" to the status of "utility" -- something that people cannot live without -- joining the ranks of electricity and running water.
SachinEE
50%
50%
SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
10/16/2014 | 10:43:37 PM
Re: What about electricity?
@bkhofmann: This is true. Natural disaster affected areas will have power disruptions, uprooted towers and whatnot. Facebook alone with improper tower connections cannot cover the entire area. If our phones were satellite phones, facebook could have made something about it.
SachinEE
50%
50%
SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
10/16/2014 | 10:36:53 PM
Re: What about electricity?
That should be the case because when disaster strikes, loved ones would want to know about the current state of the person and facebook would be a good source to say that (a phonecall will suffice too). Facebook should take into consideration road and aviation accidents, but how will facebook know the person is travelling on that train? More tracking?
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Slideshows
AWS Summit Focuses on Smoother Integrations
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  7/16/2019
Slideshows
What Does Your Management Style Say about Your Age?
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  7/10/2019
Commentary
Expect AI Flash Mobs of Fake News
Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary,  7/22/2019
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Data Science and AI in the Fast Lane
This IT Trend Report will help you gain insight into how quickly and dramatically data science is influencing how enterprises are managed and where they will derive business success. Read the report today!
Slideshows
Flash Poll