Facebook Eases Post-Disaster Fears with Safety Check Tool

When disaster strikes -- from hurricanes in South Florida to earthquakes in California and beyond -- people want assurances their loved ones are safe and sound. Facebook has noticed a trend: many of its users rely on the social media platform to find out how their friends and family are doing through status updates in the midst of the crisis.

With that trend in mind, Facebook has decided to help streamline communication for people in affected areas and for their loved ones who are anxious to find out how they are. The social media giant developed what it hopes is a helpful tool people can use in the wake of disaster. ItEUs called Safety Check.

During a major disaster, the tool will do three things: let friends and family know youEUre safe; let you check on others in the affected area; and mark your friends as safe. If you are already having privacy concerns, donEUt worry. Facebook is making assurances that only your friends will see your safety status and the comments you share.

EUThis is a potentially very helpful service in times of crisis and natural disaster,EU Greg Sterling, Vice President of Strategy & Insights at the Local Search Association, told us. EUOne could leave it at that. However one might also say this is a way to keep people engaged with Facebook, to encourage them to enable location and another effort to make Facebook more EUutilitarian.'EU

A Practical Tool

Naomi Gleit, Vice President of Product Management, Sharon Zeng, Product Manager, and Peter Cottle, Software Engineer, announced the new tool. In the announcement, they pointed to the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Devastating is the right word. More than 12.5 million people were affected nationwide -- and over 400,000 people were evacuated -- according to the Japanese Red Cross.

EUDuring that crisis...

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