Facebook has just unveiled a new feature called Safety Check, which allows people to identify themselves as safe following major disasters – as well as keep track of their friends who might've been in the affected area.
The feature is pretty simple. If Facebook thinks you're in the area of a natural disaster – let's say a tornado, hurricane, or tsunami – it'll send you a notification asking if you're safe. Facebook will know where you are based on your profile city, your last location, and the city where you're using the internet.
From there, you can check the 'I'm Safe' option and your friends will be able to see that – both via notification and a News Feed story. There will also be a 'Safety Check bookmark' page that allows you to view all friends in any affected area, and see which ones have checked in as safe and which ones haven't yet. You can also check friends in as safe, if you know that to be the case.
The Safety Check feature was born out of a Disaster Message Board, which Facebook engineers in Japan created following the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
"[T]hese 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," says Facebook. "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."
The feature is launching on iOS, Android, desktop, and feature phones.
According to Mark Zuckerberg's replies to a Facebook post, Facebook will expand the Safety Check feature to cover other types of emergencies – but for now it's starting with natural disasters.
Image via Facebook