Social Media

Facebook Adds New Feature For Disaster Assistance

The tool makes it easier to connect with your community for disaster relief during a time of crisis

Social Media
Feb 08, 2017 at 4:41 PM ET

Facebook launched a new feature on Wednesday that exists within Safety Check, a tool that is activated on the social media platform after a disaster to communicate to your friends that you are safe.

The new Community Help feature allows users to find or provide help in their community during a crisis. Users can find help in categories like food, water, shelter, transportation, baby supplies, equipment, and toiletries.

“This means that in addition to telling friends you’re safe and checking on them, you can also find help or give help to people in your community,” product designer for Facebook Preethi Chethan wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. 

Community Help is designed to help users message other people directly involved in a disaster and it includes a map that shows where requests and calls for help are coming from. Facebook said in a statement that they developed Community Help based on actions users were already taking, such as creating public relief groups, and public Google spreadsheets to help spread information.

The Saftey Check feature was first launched in 2011 in response a tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan. The company received criticism when it activated the feature for the Paris attacks in November 2015 but not for bombings in Beirut, which happened only hours before.

In a response, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement last November that the company will expand the Saftey Feature to include more disasters worldwide. More than 162,000 commenters responded to Zuckerberg’s Facebook post, with an overwhelming number of people wanting to know why the crises in Syria, along with Turkey, Kashmir, Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt hadn’t received the same attention as the Paris attacks.

The company announced that the Saftey Check feature will be algorithm based and activated by the community and not by the company itself. Still, this drew confusion when, in January, the feature was activated for a train accident in Brooklyn did not result in any fatalities.