Social network Facebook has unveiled a new feature that helps users communicate with loved ones at times of disaster or crisis.
Having determined that a person might be in an affected area via his or her listed place of residence, Nearby Friends app, or city where they are using the internet, the new tool Safety Check automatically activates and sends a notification asking the person if they are safe.
Clicking ‘I’m Safe’ will send a notification and news feed story with the update. Users can also mark themselves outside the affected area and declare their friends to be safe, while the new bookmark feature displays a list of all safety updates of people within an affected area.
Facebook has cited the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan as an example of how people have used social media to stay in touch in times of crisis.
“Our engineers in Japan took the first step toward creating a product to improve the experience of reconnecting after a disaster,” the company wrote in a statement.
“They built the Disaster Message Board to make it easier to communicate with others. They launched a test of the tool a year later and the response was overwhelming.
“Unfortunately, these kinds of disasters happen all too frequently. Each time, we see people, relief organisations and first responders turn to Facebook in the aftermath of a major natural disaster.”
The news further highlights Facebook’s attention to users’ well-being. Earlier this month, the company revealed it will begin letting users add health information to their profiles to help create online communities that support sufferers of various ailments.