New York: Facebook Inc.’s users often connect on the social network to seek relief and provide support during times of crisis. Now, the company is updating its Safety Check feature to make it easier for people to find or give help such as food, shelter or transportation during local disasters.
Safety check lets users in a certain geographic area mark themselves as safe after disasters, such as the earthquake in Nepal or terrorist attacks in Paris, giving friends and family members relief from worry about whether someone was affected.
The new community help tool will let users post requests for assistance or offers of help from within safety check, and can be filtered by category and location, according to Preethi Chethan, a product designer at Facebook.
ALSO READ: Facebook introducing paid family sick time
Facebook first started Safety Check in response to the 2011 tsunami in Japan. The company faced criticism after the 2015 Paris attacks for not activating its safety checks more often. Facebook has since implemented these alerts for many events, including some that didn’t seem to merit the warning, like an explosion in Bangkok that caused a panic when Safety Check was activated, but turned out to be small firecracker bombs as part of a protest that caused no injuries.
Community help will be initiated for natural disasters and accidents, like earthquakes or building fires, according to a blog post by Naomi Gleit, a Facebook vice-president. It will be tested in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and Saudi Arabia before becoming available for all countries and incidents.
“With every activation, we are continuing to learn how to make Safety Check and features like community help better for people in need,” Gleit wrote. “We will continue listening to feedback to make the tool more useful and relevant in the future.”