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Facebook has launched a new feature that aims to help you connect with your family, friends, and loved ones during or after natural disasters. Dubbed Safety Check, the feature is rolling out globally on Android, iOS, basic feature phones, as well as desktops.
Back in 2011, when Japan was hit by one of the most powerful earthquakes, triggering a massive tsunami, people relied heavily on technology and social networks like Facebook to stay connected with those they cared about. Facebook says the new tool is an extension of the Disaster Message Board, which was created at that time by the company's engineers in Japan with an aim to make it easier to communicate with others in trying times.
Safety Check will get activated after a natural disaster, and if you're in the affected area, you'll receive a Facebook notification asking if you're safe. If you really are, you can select "I'm Safe" and a notification and News Feed story will be generated with your update. There is no option to say NO.
Facebook says the tool determines your location by looking at the city you have listed in your profile, your last location (if you've opted in to the Nearby Friends product), and the city where you are using the internet. If it gets your location wrong, you can mark that you're outside the affected area.
If you have Facebook friends in the area struck by the disaster, the tool will also notify you about those that have marked themselves as safe. You can also mark your friends as safe, but they have to approve it.
Facebook is not the only major tech company working to connect people after disasters, Google's Person Finder tool has already been successfully used several times in disaster situations.