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Facebook launches Safety Check tool for users affected by major disaster

Facebook launches Safety Check tool, which will activate during major natural disasters.
(Facebook)

Facebook wants to know that you’re safe and sound.

After a major disaster or crisis -- say, an earthquake or a hurricane -- friends and family often scramble to locate and get updates from loved ones who might have been affected.

Now the world’s largest social network is stepping in to help that process.

Facebook has launched Safety Check, a tool that will help users let family and friends know they’re safe, check on others in the affected area and mark their friends as safe.

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“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,” Facebook said in a blog post.

Here’s how Safety Check works:

Once a natural disaster strikes, the tool will be activated and, if you’re in the affected area, you will receive a Facebook notification asking if you’re safe. Facebook will determine locations based on the city you have listed in your profile, your last location if you’ve opted in for the Nearby Friends feature and the city where you are using the Internet.

If you’re safe, you can selected “I’m safe” and a notification and News Feed story will be generated with your update. Your friends can also mark you as safe.

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If you have friends in the area of a natural disaster and the tool has been activated, you’ll get a notification about those who have marked themselves as safe. Clicking on the notification will take you to the Safety Check bookmark that will show a list of their updates.

Facebook said the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which affected more than 12.5 million people, showed the need for such a feature. Facebook’s engineers in Japan built the Disaster Message Board, which evolved into Safety Check.

“Unfortunately these kinds of disasters happen all too frequently,” Facebook said. “Each time, we see people, relief organizations and first responders turn to Facebook in the aftermath of a major natural disaster.”

Safety Check will be available globally on Android, iOS, feature phones and desktop computers.

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Only friends will see a user’s safety status and the comments he or she shares about the situation.

Follow Andrea Chang on Twitter.


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