Public HealthSocial Media

Social Media Safety: Virtual Connections Provide Realtime Results

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Natural disasters including hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes or even pandemics like the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia can change lives forever. Back just 20 years ago when these types of phenomena occurred, concerned friends and family living outside the affected region might have waited days or even weeks before hearing how their loved ones had fared.

Natural disasters including hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes or even pandemics like the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia can change lives forever. Back just 20 years ago when these types of phenomena occurred, concerned friends and family living outside the affected region might have waited days or even weeks before hearing how their loved ones had fared.

Social Media and natural disastersFortunately, today’s social media tech can bring peace of mind with just a few quick clicks. One prime example: back in 2012 during SuperStorm Sandy, a meteorological oddity for the Northeast, mobile devices, mobile carriers and social media venues expedited communication between the public and emergency responders, including FEMA and the Red Cross.

In 2013, Twitter began providing Twitter Alerts, equipping users with vital information from select credible organizations during emergencies, natural disasters and other unstable times when communication is challenging.

Now Facebook has joined in this new “safety communication revolution” with the announcement of Facebook Safety Check, a ground-breaking tool that promises to bring comfort to friends and family after a disaster occurs.

During a natural disaster and its immediate aftermath, the tool will check the location listed in your profile, places where you’ve recently checked in and the area from which you are currently using the Web. If the app determines you could be in an affected zone, a notification will pop up asking if you’re safe. You’ll then be able to respond, choosing either “I’m safe” or “I’m not in the area” responses.

Your friends will also get notifications that they have connections in the geographical area in question to let them know who has verified their safety. Facebook created the app to simplify the notification process, especially when battery life is at a premium and re-charging is not an option.

Safety Check is just another way that contemporary technology is improving communication between people every day – and especially during times of unpredictable instability. 

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