Facebook has overnight, announced a new feature which has begun rolling out globally that will allow Facebook users to notify their friends and family, that you’re ok in the event of a natural disaster.
The feature pushes so-called ‘Safety Check’ notifications to your Friends and Family when a natural disaster hits within area’s you’ve either come from, lived in or checked in at with friends or where you recently logged in from. The notifications will allow you to let friends and family know you’re safe, as well as check on others in the affected area and mark your friends and family as safe.
Facebook is stating that Only your friends will see your safety status and the comments you share, so nobody else will be able to see this information.
The basis for the idea came from recent disasters such as the Japanese Earthquake of 2011 in which 12.5 million people were affected nationwide, causing more than 400,000 people to be evacuated. The company also stated that this disaster showed how how people used technology and social media to stay connected with those they cared about.
Naomi Gleit, Vice President of Product Management, Sharon Zeng, Product Manager & Peter Cottle, Software Engineer said in a blog post on the Facebook news site that:
Our engineers in Japan took the first step toward creating a product to improve the experience of reconnecting after a disaster. They built the Disaster Message Board to make it easier to communicate with others. They launched a test of the tool a year later and the response was overwhelming.
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.
These events have taught us a lot about how people use Facebook during disasters and we were personally inspired to continue work on the Disaster Message Board to incorporate what we’ve learned. This project soon became Safety Check, which will be available globally on Android, iOS, feature phones and desktop.
Safety Check notifications will be universally available on iOS and Android, as well as on the desktop, with moves underway to deliver the feature to handsets and devices immediately.
It is uncertain whether this will simply be added as a small update server side or whether an update is required through Google Play. It’s safe to say though that you should have Facebook installed if you would like to use Safety Check notifications. Head over to Google Play and install it, or check to see if there is an update available.