When disaster strikes, Facebook's new Safety Check tool will enable users to report their well-being to loved ones and will apprise them of connected neighbors whose whereabouts might remain uncertain.
It's as simple as tapping "I'm safe" or "I'm not in the area" when disaster strikes. The simple updates give concerned parties peace of mind and could help avoid unnecessary spending of resources on the part of search and rescue teams.
"In times of disaster or crisis, people turn to Facebook to check on loved ones and get updates," says Facebook. "It is in these moments that communication is most critical both for people in the affected areas and for their friends and families anxious for news."
When activated, the Safety Check tool determine's the users's location by the city listed in his or her profile and the area where the individual was last online.
After watching how people reconnected with each other after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Facebook began looking for ways to streamline the process of connecting survivors with their loved ones. Facebook says its engineers in Japan put Safety Check in motion in the aftermath of the interconnected disasters. A 9.0 magnitude earthquake offshore triggered a tsunami that hit the coast and caused extensive damage in northeastern Japan, including destroying three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex and causing evacuation of a large area.
"Unfortunately, these kinds of disasters happen all too frequently," says Facebook. "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."
Safety Check will be available on Android, iOS and desktops. Only an individual's Facebook friends will receive notifications regarding that person's safety.
"If you're ever in a situation that would require you to use Safety Check, we hope it's a tool that helps you stay connected to those you care about, and gives you the comfort of knowing your loved ones are safe," says Facebook.
While Facebook's Safety Check tool is poised to relieve countless families of worlds of worry, Apple's Find My iPhone feature recently led rescuers to a woman whose car careened into the bottom of a 400 foot ravine.
The woman was found face down outside of her car, unable to use her phone to alert family members and authorities of her condition. Rescuers searched a seven-mile area before a detective came up with the idea to pinpoint the location of the woman's iPhone via her iPad along with her family members.