Facebook can help you in natural disasters

San Francisco: Inspired by the widespread use of its tool in countries like India during natural disasters, social media giant Facebook today updated a 'Safety Check' feature that lets people find and give help such as food, shelter and transportation after a crisis.

"Our belief is that the community can teach us new ways to use the platform. We saw people using Facebook to tell friends and family they were OK after crises, so in 2014 we launched Safety Check to make that behaviour even easier," said Facebook Vice President of social good Naomi Gleit.

Since then, Safety Check has been activated hundreds of times, but we know we can do more to empower the community to help one another, she said.

With 'Community Help' people can find and give help, and message others directly to connect after a crisis. Posts can be viewed by category and location, making it easier for people to find the help they need, she said.

"We saw the community do this on their own through Groups and posts, like in the aftermath of the flooding in Chennai, India, in December 2015, but we knew we could do more, Gleit said.

"We also talked with experts, humanitarian relief organisations and our own in-the-field researchers to learn how to make it easier for people to find and give help," she said.

To start, Facebook will make Community Help available for natural and accidental incidents, such as an earthquake or building fire.

"We're also starting in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and Saudi Arabia for the first couple of weeks, and as we learn more about how people use the product, we will look to improve it and make it available for all countries and additional types of incidents," Gleit said.

"With every activation, we are continuing to learn how to make Safety Check and features like Community Help better for people in need. We will continue listening to feedback to make the tool more useful and relevant in the future," she added.

PTI