Facebook ‘Safety Check’ lets friends know you’re OK after a major disaster


Recently, Facebook has launched a new tool named “ Safety Check”, which is an easy way to tell family and friends that you are safe during a disaster in the area. This tool can also check your friends’ situations if they are in the affected area. Only your friends can see your safety status and the comments you share.

Facebook came up with this idea based on the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which affected over 12.5 million people. Facebook’s engineers in Japan found that many people relied on social media to stay connected to their friends and family during the crisis, so they built and tested a Disaster Message Board within a year of the earthquake and tsunami. The Disaster Message Board received positive feedback so Facebook continued to improve upon it. Now the Disaster Message Board has changed the name to Safety Check and is available to every Facebook user globally on Android, iOS, feature phones and desktops.

“Safety Check will be automatically activated during a natural disaster. After a disaster occurs, Facebook determines your location based on the city listed in your profile, the last location you were in if you have the Nearby Friends feature turned on and the city that you are using the Internet. If the natural disaster occurs in the city that you are at, then Facebook will send a notification to ask if you are safe. If you are not in the location of the disaster, then you can mark “I’m not in the area.” If you are in the area, then you can mark “I’m Safe.””

Actually, Facebook is not the only company to consider such a measure. In 2012, Google launched Public Alerts for natural disasters in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

For me, Safety Check is a good tool to tell my family and friends “ I’m Safe”. Only need I to do is click one button, which will tell everyone I’m fine. This article, however, argued that Safety Check is a truly useful tool, or just a clever approach to try to take some information out of the apps’ location tracking features?  Even though they are figuring the latter impression doesn’t hurt from Facebook’s perspective, but some users still consider the privacy of their tracks beside the disaster situation. Also I’m wondering that in the connected age, how people use this tool to tell their family or friends they’re safe without the Internet? Moreover, will it be delay your safety situation when you are in some countries or places, where lack network services or are seriously damaged by the natural disaster?

Questions for the class: What do you think of Facebook’s Safety Check feature? Do you think it is a good tool to tell people you’re fine during a disaster? And what is your opinion about those problems I mentioned before?


—Hongjia Xia


One thought on “Facebook ‘Safety Check’ lets friends know you’re OK after a major disaster

  1. I think this Facebook Safety app is a very good idea, and I would definitely use it. Coming from another country and having most of the my family and closest friends living outside of the US, this app can come in very handy. Specially during Hurricane Sandy, my parents and friends were very worried for not hearing from me for couple of days (because of power outage in my area), if I had that app, I could have just quickly shared on Facebook that I am safe, and then will contact them later. I don’t think the location tracking is really relevant here, because most of the time when I natural disaster happens, you are most likely home.

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