This writer reflects on her experiences with natural disasters in the Philippines, and how Facebook's Safety Check would help.

Juvy Garcia  |  Singapore
Published 2014-10-29 10:00:36

I am not a heavy Facebook user. I only open my account to get distracted when I’m bored. But most people I know online are active on Facebook. There are the parents who post their baby’s newest milestone, the business-minded who shares some encouragements for their friends to join in a new venture and so on. It is undeniable that the social networking site has become an important part of our daily lives.

Even in times of natural disasters, Facebook plays an important role. When Bohol was hit by an earthquake last year, I was updated by posts on Facebook. The same can be said when Typhoon Haiyan ravaged Tacloban in November 2013.

Image Credit: Wiki Commons
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

And this is true for all other Facebook users elsewhere in the world. Mark Zuckerberg’s team took notice, of course, and their Japanese engineers started working on their Disaster Message Board. The board was used to make reconnecting after a disaster much easier. And after refinements, the Disaster Message Board became Facebook’s newest feature, the Safety Check.

Facebook Safety Check

The new Facebook feature was introduced on Oct 15. Safety Check will be available on iOS, Android, feature phones and desktops worldwide.

Image Credit: GeoTV
Image Credit: GeoTV

The new feature will be very much beneficial to Filipinos who live in the cluster of over 7,000 islands west of the Pacific Ocean. The Philippines is beset with several typhoons throughout the year, averaging 19 to 20 cyclones annually, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA). These natural calamities leave billion pesos worth of damages in terms of properties, agriculture and livestock, not to mention lost lives and displaced survivors.

So it’s very easy to imagine how the new tool can help the typhoon-prone tropical country. Specifically, here’s how Facebook Safety Check can benefit Filipinos:

You can stay connected with family, loved ones and friends during a disaster.

When the Bohol earthquake struck, I was several kilometers away from my parents. Had this feature been available last year, I could have easily informed them that I was safe and they could have easily done the same as well.

Image Credit: Twitter/@gmanews
Image Credit: Twitter/@gmanews

Safety Check does this by, first, determining if you are in the affected area. The tool takes a look at the location you listed in your profile, your last location, and the city where you’re using the Internet. When it concludes you’re in an area hit by a natural disaster, it sends you a notification asking if you’re safe.

Image Credit: Facebook
Image Credit: Facebook

If you answer “I’m Safe”, it sends a notification and generates a News Feed story with your update. Otherwise, if the tool got your location wrong, you can mark that you’re outside the disaster-affected area.

“If you’re ever in a situation that would require you to use Safety Check, we hope it’s a tool that helps you stay connected to those you care about, and gives you the comfort of knowing your loved ones are safe.” – Facebook

But what Facebook Safety Check really does is allow us to communicate at a vital hour and eases our worries. It brings another meaning of ‘social’ to the table.

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