Facebook Safety Check will let people offer food and shelter during crisis

8 Feb 2017

The aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquake in the city of Kathmandu. Image: think4photop/Shutterstock

Facebook’s Safety Check feature has been expanded to let users offer shelter and aid to people affected in their area.

Launched in 2014, Facebook’s Safety Check feature was lauded as the best way to let loved ones know that someone in a disaster-stricken area was OK.

With news coverage doing little to ease fears, a Facebook check-in was a quicker solution.

Lending a helping hand

The service featured prominently in incidents over the past two years, including the 2015 Nepal earthquake and the terrorist attacks in Brussels last March.

The safety feature is once again being expanded to offer an opportunity for someone in a crisis area to help out someone worse off than themselves.

In a blog post, Facebook said its ‘Community Help’ update will enable people to find and give help, and message others directly to connect after a crisis.

These posts can be viewed by category and location, making it a bit easier for people to find the help they need.

The feature was created following analysis of how people were using the social network in Chennai, India, to create helpful groups following major flooding that occurred in December 2015.

Community Help

How Community Help will look. Image: Facebook

Six countries to start

To start, its developers said it will be made available for natural disasters and accidentals, such as an earthquake or building fire, but have so far not given an indication of when it will be rolled out to victims of other incidents, such as a terrorist attack.

Over the coming weeks, the first countries to receive the update will be the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and Saudi Arabia.

This update follows a similar approach taken by Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky, who recently offered free accommodation to those affected by US president Donald Trump’s executive order, which banned immigration from seven countries.

“Airbnb is providing free housing to refugees and anyone else who needs it in the event they are denied the ability to board a US-bound flight and are not in your city/country of residence,” he said following the news.

“We have 3m homes, so we can definitely find people a place to stay.”

Aftermath of 2015 earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal. Image: think4photop/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic