Facebook today announced a new site feature called Crisis Response, which will act as a central hub for all of the company’s safety-related tools. That primarily includes Safety Check, the feature that lets Facebook users tell friends and family members they’re safe during natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and other life-threatening incidents.
The center will also contain a mix of public Facebook posts, news articles, photos, and videos to keep people informed and up to date on a given crisis. Other additions include the Community Help tool, first introduced in November of last year, for coordinating help during a disaster and an all-new fundraising feature for supporting affected individuals and groups, as well as non-profits involved with relief efforts.
Facebook has for some time now recognized and reacted to its increasing role in disaster relief and its utility as a way to check in on loved ones affected by any number of potentially devastating global occurrences. Safety Check, first introduced in 2014 but deployed at a wide scale during the 2015 Nepal earthquake, has been the company’s signature feature in this area, giving users a quick and easy way to mark themselves alive and well amid the chaos of an attack or natural disaster.
Safety Check can now be activated automatically by an influx of user posts and a confirmation from a third-party news or government source. That decision, made early last year, has resulted in some false scares, like a Safety Check activation in Bangkok, Thailand in December 2016 over some firecrackers that were misidentified as a bomb thanks to an outdated news story and a flood of user posts that scrambled Facebook’s algorithm.
Despite those setbacks, however, Safety Check has emerged as a defining feature of Facebook’s new community-driven mission, and it’s undoubtedly one of the most impactful utilities the social network provides. Now that it lives under a new centralized hub with more resources, it will likely continue to be a rare technological reassurance for victims of any number of the world’s crises, which now happen to play out globally on social media.