These days, we use social media for everything. Everyone, from kids in elementary school to senior citizens living out their retirement, check websites like Twitter and Facebook on a daily if not hourly basis. With social media as popular as it is, it makes sense that it would eventually start to be utilized for more important tasks than just checking up on what your favorite celebrity has to say, or posting a status about the latest latte you drank.
What am I referring to? Disasters. With everybody on Twitter, and Facebook especially, it makes sense that they be used as tools by which to inform those you love of your status during some kind of calamity. Whether you be caught in a snowstorm, a hurricane, an earthquake, or a fire, Facebook is trying to make you just a bit more safe and secure during these kinds of traumatic moments.
Facebook’s foray into the safety industry comes amidst a flurry of new services meant to keep you safe. One of these was covered in a recent Lifehack article, an app known as SafeTrek, which informs police of your location in potentially dangerous situations.
Facebook’s service is similar, though meant to be used on a far larger scale. Whereas an app like SafeTrek is more suited for something akin to a home break-in or a store robbery, Facebook’s “Safety Check” is designed to keep tabs on your status during major disasters.
How exactly does it work? Since it is part of the Facebook app, it uses your personal information (such as the town you have listed as your current area of residence) as well as your internet activity to determine your location. If you happen to be near a disaster, the Safety Check feature will activate, and ask you if you are safe. This will notify everyone in your news feed of your status, a useful feature since anyone that cares for you will want to know that you are OK.
If for some reason Safety Check gets your location wrong, you can simply tell it that you are “not in the area,” and it will go away.
Safety Check goes beyond just informing people of your status in a disaster. It also allows you to see other people who were possibly affected by the same event, and lets you monitor whether they select if they are safe or not. That can be an incredibly useful feature if you are wondering whether or not your friends are all safe.
Development on Facebook’s Safety Check feature started mainly as a result of the 2011 Tsunami in Japan, an event that convinced the company to develop a more streamlined way to make Facebook a useful tool during a disaster, mainly because people were using it as a way to report their status after the wave hit anyways.
While there are certainly other services like Safety Check out there, this one is particularly intriguing because nearly everyone uses Facebook. Therefore, it makes it that much easier to get informed about those you know who might be in danger. Previously, you would have to wait on texts, calls, or some other kind of social media status, all of which are more clunky to use than simply pressing the “I am safe” button in Facebook’s tool.
What this feature really offers then is peace of mind. The only potential drawback I can see with this tool is that it tracks our whereabouts 24/7 That said, Facebook was probably already keeping tabs on us either way, and at least there is a good reason for location tracking to exist with Safety Check.
Facebook is not alone in releasing new safety features. The popular app Shazam has also released new features that help prepare you for disasters, and others are sure to follow. I say it is for the best. The more ways we have to protect ourselves, and inform those we love of our status during calamitous events, the better.
Featured photo credit: Facebook/mkhmarketing via flickr.com