Facebook introduces “Safety Check”

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When natural and not-so-natural disasters occur, the first thing most of us worry about is our family and friends and if they’re safe or not.

Cue “Safety Check”, Facebook’s new feature which allows users in areas affected by natural disasters to check in and let their loved ones know they’re safe or “not in the area”.

The feature comes after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. More than 12.5 million people were affected, and many of these turned to social media to keep in touch with their family and friends during the disaster. As a result, Facebook engineers in Japan introduced the “Disaster Message Board”, in which those affected could assure their loved ones that they were safe. The message board was very well received and thus became the basis for Safety Check.

Safety Check determines your proximity to an incident based on a number of factors: the location listed on their profile, the last location they posted from, or the location at which they’re currently accessing the internet. If it’s determined that you are close to the disaster, Safety Check will send you a mobile notification asking if you’re safe. If you’re with friends or family during the disaster, you can mark them as “safe” on their behalf, too.

With more than 1.3 billion Facebook users and with disasters occurring all the time, Safety Check will be a welcome feature to those of us a little more prone to worrying. In times of disaster, a little peace of mind can go a long way.