Facebook to help users tell friends they're safe during disasters

When disaster strikes, the most natural and human response is to make sure that everyone is okay. When disaster strikes far away, however, that’s not always easy, especially as communications infrastructure in the affected area may be reduced, compounded by a flurry of people desperately trying to contact loved ones by phone for immediate updates.

It goes without saying that anything that can make the process easier and less traumatic during such troubling times is a good thing. For the last couple of years, Google has been using a tool called Person Finder to help people contact loved ones in disaster zones; it has proved to be an exceptionally useful resource during catastrophic events such as 2010’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, and earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan last year.

Now, Yokoso News reports that Facebook is testing a tool that will help people to signal to their friends and family that they’re safe in times of disaster. Facebook is testing the Disaster Message Board (currently only accessible in Japan) as a means of letting your loved ones know that you’re alive and well. In the event of a major disaster in your region, a Facebook notification will appear above your News Feed, inviting you to use the Disaster Message Board to let others know that you’re safe.

The Message Board looks similar to a Facebook Wall, but with ‘Like’ replaced by an ‘I’m Safe’ link. You can also mark someone else as being safe (although it’s not immediately clear if this will be limited in any way; for example, only being able to mark your friends and friends of friends as safe, rather than complete strangers).

It’s not yet known if Facebook plans to extend the Disaster Message Board beyond the confines of Japan, but it’s clear that this could be a very useful tool during both natural and man-made disasters across the world. While environmental disasters are often the most catastrophic in terms of the scale of destruction, people often find it difficult to get in touch with friends and family during non-natural disasters too, such as large-scale accidents or terrorist attacks.

Story via New Scientist | Images via Yosoko News

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12 Comments

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When all hell will be breaking lose, people would still be Facebooking?
And in a serious disaster, I don't think they would have access to internet.


But this would come handy during the 2012's apocalypse.

If you can get online to get to facebook wouldn't you just post a message on your own page? send a tweet? or email? or something else.
Can't say my first thought during a disaster is, "must get online to facebook"

Teebor said,
If you can get online to get to facebook wouldn't you just post a message on your own page? send a tweet? or email? or something else.
Can't say my first thought during a disaster is, "must get online to facebook"

You could post a status to your timeline, but that could be drowned in the buzz and people would need to visit your profile and dig for it to know.

Tweet? I don't think Facebook would suggest that.

E-mail? Yes, also possible, except that you'd only be able to mail people in your address book, which is potentially less people than you're friends with on Facebook. For those NOT on Facebook, mail is of course a good option though. Personally, I check my social networks more often than my mail.

Unlike you, I think many log on to social networks as an early thought if e.g. an earthquake has just passed and Internet connectivity is still there.

Teebor said,
If you can get online to get to facebook wouldn't you just post a message on your own page? send a tweet? or email? or something else.
Can't say my first thought during a disaster is, "must get online to facebook"

The point of this feature is to get people into thinking "'gotta 'safe' myself on facebook" whenever a disaster occurs. Eventually this may be the prime method of letting your friends know you are okay. Obviously, right now it's an odd idea, but all ideas start off weird

Who's going to tell users when they are safe from that disaster that is called Facebook?!!

Stupid Facebook has been asking me for a phone number to log in. This seems to come and go with other people during different updates to FB. I sure as heck am not giving them my phone number!! Doesn't matter, account wasn't under my real name anyway, as I sure as heck wouldn't do that either!!

cork1958 said,
Who's going to tell users when they are safe from that disaster that is called Facebook?!!

Stupid Facebook has been asking me for a phone number to log in. This seems to come and go with other people during different updates to FB. I sure as heck am not giving them my phone number!! Doesn't matter, account wasn't under my real name anyway, as I sure as heck wouldn't do that either!!

Its easier to go on fb and click a button after a massive earthquake, than ring each of your friends/family..

Xerax said,

Its easier to go on fb and click a button after a massive earthquake, than ring each of your friends/family..

And they would really panic when their loved one doesn't put the safe sign.

cork1958 said,

Stupid Facebook has been asking me for a phone number to log in. This seems to come and go with other people during different updates to FB. I sure as heck am not giving them my phone number!! Doesn't matter, account wasn't under my real name anyway, as I sure as heck wouldn't do that either!!

Paranoid much?