Facebook is introducing a new Safety Check feature designed to help friends and family members check on loved ones during natural disasters. The tool works by triggering a push notification on devices that are near an affected area. Facebook determines location from cities listed in profiles, last location from the Nearby Friends feature, or the city you’re connecting and using the internet from. If a Facebook user is safe they simply hit the ‘I’m safe’ button and a notification and News Feed story will be generated automatically.
The Safety Check tool also combines all check-ins into a bookmark feature, allowing Facebook users to check an area to make sure friends are safe. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced the feature in Japan yesterday, a country that is still recovering from the effects of a devastating tsunami in 2011. The disaster affected more than 12.5 million people in Japan, and Facebook’s Japanese engineers decided to create a disaster message board to improve communications with others. "Our engineers in Japan took the first step toward creating a product to improve the experience of reconnecting after a disaster," says Naomi Gleit, vice president of product management at Facebook. "They built the Disaster Message Board to make it easier to communicate with others."
Facebook’s early test of the tool was a success and eventually led to today’s feature addition. The social networking giant will work with authorities to flag disasters, and Safety Check will debut worldwide on Android, iOS, feature phones, and the desktop version of Facebook.