Monday, March 16, 2015

A good idea

Sure, like many users, I sometimes criticise Facebook, but when they do something right, they should get some praise. Safety Check is a Facebook feature that is one of those good things.

The way it works is that if there’s a disaster or crisis, Facebook sends you a message asking if you’re okay. This is based on the city the user chooses for their profile, or the city where Facebook was last accessed by the user.

Then, the person goes to Facebook and clicks “I’m safe”, if in fact they are, or they can mark that they’re not in the affected area. If they click “I’m safe” a message goes to their friends only.

Facebook released the product in October 2014, and, they say, developed it when they noticed how people were using social media after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. We saw that with the Christchurch earthquakes, too.

Social media is a fast and efficient way to let a lot of people know all at once that you’re okay after a disaster strikes. This Facebook tool makes it easy to do so, which is important because after a disaster, power and Internet connections may be spotty. For that reason, I’ve long advocated that people set up their Facebook to allow them to post a status update by text message from their phone, because in a major disaster, text messages will very often get through when a data connection can’t be made, or regular phone calls can’t get through. Good to have all options available.

Whenever there’s a disaster anywhere in this part of the world—usually an earthquake—folks overseas naturally wonder if we’re okay. I know some of my Kiwi friends get a little annoyed by that—“don’t they know how far away Christchurch is from Auckland?!” they ask. Well, no, they don’t, and there’s no reason why they should know. I don’t know how far most US cities are from each other, and I’m from that country! Why should people know distances in a country they don’t really know at all?

Personally, I find it touching that people care enough to enquire after our safety and well-being when something happens in or near New Zealand, no matter how far removed we might have been from the event. I’m as concerned about them.

Thanks to Safety Check, it’s become a little bit easier to let friends and family on Facebook know we’re okay when something happens. I think that’s a good thing, so, well done, Facebook!

The image above is a screen grab after I checked in using Safety Check. Notice the part that that says, “some friends and loved ones may be unable to access Facebook to let you know they’re OK.” A very subtle “don’t worry” message, which I think was a good thing to do.


rogerogreen said...

Vanuatu was on our church's prayer list yesterday. It got hammered.

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

Yes, it was. New Zealand and Australia have been flying in disaster relief personnel and supplies, despite damage to the airport. Both countries will be taking the lead to help Vanuatu and other Pacific nations—we think of those nations as family, not just neighbours. Relief agencies have described Vanuatu as "flattened", so it'll be a big job to get them back on their feet again.