Everybody uses Facebook. Ok, not everybody — only 1.55 billion of us. When more than 1/5th of the world are active users of the same global network, it’s logical to think that it might be a good way of sending communication during a crisis. Facebook has done just that with its Safety Check feature. If you haven’t seen Safety Check on your phone or PC, consider yourself among the fortunate, as it is only activated when it sees that you’re in an area that has undergone some sort of emergency.
Though it has been out for more than a year now, until recently, it has only been activated for natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. That changed in November when Facebook activated the service during the Paris terror attacks. Since then, the company has begun to activate Safety Check for other crises such as the bombing in Nigeria on November 17th. Here’s a post from Facebook’s VP of Growth Alex Schulz explaining why they have changed their policies to include terror attacks and other global emergencies in Safety Check.
How does it work? It’s pretty simple. You won’t see Safety Check unless you’re in an affected area or you have a Facebook friend who is. Facebook will send you a push notification telling you that it notices you’re in the area and asks you if you’re safe. There’s a big green button that says “I’m Safe” that you can push, and another that says “I’m not in the area”. Once you’ve pushed those, you’re done. You don’t have to take the time to send a message or figure out who to send it to. Facebook then pushes that message to your friends immediately. It’s better than a traditional post because you don’t have to worry that it will get lost in between funny memes and cat pictures in their feeds. Safety Check also lets you mark others that you’re with as safe. That’s great in the event that not everyone has access to their phone or someone’s battery is low.
As with any service available on the internet there have been criticisms. One criticism of the service is that there are areas of the world – particularly in the APAC region – in which Facebook isn’t as widely used. It isn’t even available to most in China. If the service were to be tried there it would be largely ineffective. In addition, it might not always be possible to get a strong data connection – particularly if thousands of others are trying to do the same thing. That is a limitation of any internet-based service at this point, which will hopefully be solved as bandwidth and coverage continues to improve. If you’re traveling, a good thing to ask yourself would be, “If an emergency happens, how will I let my friends and family know I’m ok?” If Facebook is available, it’s definitely a simple and effective option.
For companies with business travelers, Facebook Safety Check is more than likely not the right tool for managing duty of care. We talked about a few of those in another post and business travelers should be in the know with regard to the most effective communication options for their company. What Facebook Safety Check seems to be is a great service that you can use to quickly let friends and loved ones know that you’re ok. That’s important.
Have you had experience with Facebook’s Safety Check feature? I’d love to know how it worked for you. Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TandTNews.