Facebook today announced the addition of Community Help to its Safety Check Service.

Facebook’s Safety Check service allows users to mark themselves as “safe” during natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or other dangerous situations. The new capability of Community Help allows those near a dangerous incident to offer food, supplies, or shelter to those affected.

(Image: Facebook)

“We saw people using Facebook to tell friends and family they were OK after crises, so in 2014 we launched Safety Check to make that behavior even easier. Since then, Safety Check has been activated hundreds of times, but we know we can do more to empower the community to help one another,” explains Naomi Gleit, vice president of Social Good at Facebook.

Regarding the push to develop Community Help, Gleit explained, “We saw the community do this on their own through Groups and posts, like in the aftermath of the flooding in Chennai, India, in December 2015, but we knew we could do more. We also talked with experts, humanitarian relief organizations and our own in-the-field researchers to learn how to make it easier for people to find and give help.”

Facebook worked to make Community Help easy to use, for both those posting help and those seeking help.

“With Community Help people can find and give help, and message others directly to connect after a crisis,” Gleit said. “Posts can be viewed by category and location, making it easier for people to find the help they need.”

(Image: Facebook)

Initially, it will be available only in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Saudi Arabia. Facebook said this is so they can learn more about how people use the product. Facebook does anticipate global deployment eventually. Community Help will be activated when Safety Check is activated.

For Safety Check to be activated, Gleit explains that two things need to happen. First, global crisis reporting agencies NC4 and iJET International alert Facebook that an incident has occurred and give it a title, and Facebook begins monitoring for posts about the incident in the area.

Second, if many users are discussing the incident, Facebook may prompt them to mark themselves as safe, and invite others to do the same. Starting today, if an incident is a natural or accidental disaster, people will see Community Help. Within Safety Check, they can find or give help, and message others directly.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs