Using Facebook's Safety Check During a Crisis

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We've all heard about the horrific, inhumane act on Paris. But truly, it was not only an attack on Paris, it was an attack on humanity. As a human race, when did we lose our way? Was it back in the 1600s, the 1900s, or the 2000s? Or is it because we have social media and technology we're now able to actually see, feel and witness tragedies like this a lot quicker?

The Paris terror attacks happened while I was in Anaheim, California, next to Disneyland with my team for the West Coast Franchise expo, an event that Sociallybuzz attends every year. This is one of the busiest places in the world, so I couldn't keep from wondering, "what if it happened here?" My heart goes out to everyone affected by this event and all the other tragic events happening daily.

As the news spread across the world from one social media channel to the next, I witnessed something. Everyone was saying or posting graphics of "Pray for Paris", but were they really taking a few minutes to bow their heads and say a quick prayer, or were they just following a trend? Everyone also changed their profile photo to the flag. Yes, it also serves as a way to spread awareness of the event, but I believe more importantly, people just wanted to know if their friends or family was safe and stay connected with those they care about. People turned to social media to check on loved ones and get updates. It is in these moments that communication is most critical both for people in the affected areas and for their friends and families patiently waiting for news.

Facebook created a very helpful tool called the Safety Check - a simple and easy way to say you're safe and check on others. Anyone can use it to quickly find and connect with friends in the affected area. You can mark them safe if you know they're OK. If you're in the affected area, you can also let your friends and family know by using that tool. Only your friends will see your safety status and the comments you share.

"Over the last few years there have been many disasters and crises where people have turned to the Internet for help. Each time, we see people use Facebook to check on their loved ones and see if they're safe. Connecting with people is always valuable, but these are the moments when it matters most. Safety Check is our way of helping our community during natural disasters and gives you an easy and simple way to say you're safe and check on all your friends and family in one place." - Mark Zuckerberg on the launch of tool on October 15th, 2014.

Here's how it works:

When the tool is activated after a natural disaster and if you're in the affected area, you'll receive a Facebook notification asking if you're safe.

They'll determine your location by looking at the city you have listed in your profile, your last location if you've opted in to the Nearby Friends product, and the city where you are using the internet.

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If they get your location wrong, you can mark that you're outside the affected area.

If you're safe, you can select "I'm Safe" and a notification and News Feed story will be generated with your update. Your friends can also mark you as safe.

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If you have friends in the area of a natural disaster and the tool has been activated, you will receive a notification about those friends that have marked themselves as safe. Clicking on this notification will take you to the Safety Check bookmark that will show you a list of their updates.

This is what social media and technology is all about. Using them to connect with your network of friends and family when it matters most.

Paris, I Prayed for you (yes, I actually did), just like we should pray for all the other crises in the world, televised and not televised!

This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.