October 16, 2014 9:28 am
Updated: October 17, 2014 6:48 am

Facebook launches emergency check-in feature for natural disasters

Facebook users will be able to let their friends and family know they are ok with the click of a button thanks to a new feature called “Safety Check.”

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TORONTO – In 2012, Facebook took centre stage as users inundated the social network with status updates relating to Hurricane Sandy. At the height of the storm, “we are OK” was the most-shared phrase on Facebook.

Going forward, Facebook users will be able to let their friends and family know they are okay with the click of a button thanks to a new feature called “Safety Check.”

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Once activated, Safety Check determines the users location based on the city they have listed in their profile, or their last shared location. If the area is affected by a natural disaster, Safety Check will send them a notification asking them if they are safe.

If the user chooses “Yes,” their Facebook friends will be notified.

“Over the last few years there have been many disasters and crises where people have turned to the Internet for help. Each time, we see people use Facebook to check on their loved ones and see if they’re safe,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post Thursday.

“Connecting with people is always valuable, but these are the moments when it matters most.”

The tool was born out of a Facebook disaster message board starting during the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Users are also able to mark their friends as “Safe,” but the friend has to approve the update before it appears publicly. However, users are not able to choose “No” as an answer.

“Our Government takes the safety of our citizens very seriously, particularly during times of crisis. We commend the work done by organizations, like Facebook, that help to connect Canadians in times of disaster. These technologies ensure that individuals and families are well prepared to respond and ensure their own safety and that of loved ones,” said Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in a statement issued Thursday.

Safety Check will be available worldwide to the social network’s 1.32 billion users on computers and mobile devices starting Thursday.

© 2014 Shaw Media

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