Social media apps are now transforming into disaster rescue and relief platforms as well as person finder apps.
Last Saturday’s deadly 7.9 magnitude Nepal earthquake has affected communications, separated families, and caused so much heartbreak for both Nepalese and foreign tourists as well as their families. But hope is being brought by at least two of the most used platforms globally – Facebook and Google.
Facebook’s Safety Check
The other day, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg posted his on this own personal account.
When I checked Safety Check’s page, this is what it told me:
Fortunately, I had no friends trekking in Nepal at this time. But if I did, this page would tell me if they were safe or still had not checked in.
How does Safety Check work?
Facebook activates Safety Check only in serious situations. Anyone now in Nepal who opens Facebook will get a push notification asking if they are safe. Once they respond, they are placed in the SAFE category. Anyone connected to them on Facebook who logs into this Safety Check page will get to see that their friend in Nepal is safe.
Safety Check was rolled out in Japan October 2014. This Engadget article says that Safety Check “is an extension of the Disaster Message Board its Japanese engineers rolled out after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami there”. While some people wary of privacy intrusion may think Safety Check is just a little too close for comfort, it is in these times of disaster when they actually prove welcome to families looking for their loved ones.
Google’s Person Finder
The idea for Google’s Person Finder began, I believe, in 2010 after the Haiti earthquake. Since then, it has been deployed several more times to aid people trying to connect with missing loved ones during natural disasters. Person Finder makes use of crowdsourcing to populate its missing persons database. It gets information from emergency responders and individuals who input either information about a missing person or about someone who has been found.