Most recently put into practice during terror attacks in Paris, Facebook is using a new feature of their social media platform to keep people connected during times of crisis. Launched in October 2014, Facebook Safety Check is a tool that allows users to check the safety status of loved ones who are in close proximity to a major disaster. For those anxiously awaiting news and updates, Safety Check is an easy way to check in and let them know that you’re safe.
HOW DOES SAFETY CHECK WORK?
When Facebook decides to activate the tool following a natural disaster or other significant event, you’ll receive a Facebook notification asking if you’re safe if you are in close proximity to the affected area. Facebook knows your location by looking at your current city listed on your profile or if you’ve recently checked in near the area.
Facebook will send a notification to your phone asking if you’re OK
If you are in the area and safe from harm, you can click “I’m Safe.” A notification will then be sent to your Facebook friends and News Feed story posted to your profile. If a loved one has heard from you, they can also mark you as safe.
Facebook allows you to check yourself in and see if other friends are safe
THE HISTORY OF SAFETY CHECK
Following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the staff at Facebook was inspired to make it easier to reconnect after a disaster. Over 12.5 million people in Japan were affected by these natural disasters, with impact that also spanned worldwide. Facebook engineers set out to create a tool that would allow users to let friends and family know they were safe, check on others in the affected area, and mark other friends as safe.
Since its inception, Safety Check has been activated during earthquakes in Afghanistan, Chile and Nepal as well as Tropical Cyclone Pam in the South Pacific, Typhoon Ruby in the Philippines, and Hurricane Patricia in Mexico. When it came to the attacks in Paris, Facebook’s VP of Growth – Alex Schultz stated, “we made the decision to try something we’ve never done before: activating Safety Check for something other than a natural disaster.”
HOW DID SAFETY CHECK IMPACT PARIS?
For the first time in the feature’s history, the team at Facebook decided to implement Safety Check for a terror attack. Once activated, Safety Check was used by more than 4 million Facebook users in the area during the first 24 hours following the attacks, with over 360 million people around the world receiving notifications that their friends were safe.
The attacks had widespread impact at six sites around the city, creating fear and displacement of those in Paris at the time. With the help of Facebook’s Safety Check, people of all ages and nationalities were able to alert their loved ones of their safety. As a college student with friends studying abroad, this tool helped me get information about their safety in a quick and easy way.
MOVING FORWARD WITH SAFETY CHECK
With the rise of online connectivity around the world, social media is creating a positive chain reaction during times of crisis. Schultz added, “This activation will change our policy around Safety Check and when we activate it for other serious and tragic incidents in the future. We want this tool to be available whenever and wherever it can help.”
As we continue to pray for healing and justice for Paris, companies like Facebook will reflect on the situation and explore opportunities to improve and make an impact during future events. It’s unfortunate that disasters are happening on what seems like a more frequent basis, but I’m grateful that social media is creating an outlet for safety and security when disaster strikes, allowing us to stand together – stronger than before.