On October 15, 2014 Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of the Facebook Safety Check in response to the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. This feature was created to help friends and family get in touch during a natural disaster or other catastrophic event such as the horrible terrorist attack in Paris. When a major event occurs Facebook activates Safety Check and sends a notification to people who have been determined to be in or near the affected area. This determination is based on a person’s city of residence in their Facebook profile, location data, if enabled, and other signals that point to location such as where someone uses the internet.
If any of your Facebook friends are located in an affected area and the tool has been activated, you will receive a notification about friends and loved ones that may be in that area and you will be able to see whether or not they have marked themselves as safe. When you receive this notification simply click or tap on it to see a list of updates from your friends. Stories about friends being marked safe may also show up in your news feed. Watch how it works on a smartphone in this video from the Facebook newsroom.
If Facebook detects that you may be in or near an affected area you will receive an “Are you safe?” message with two options to select: “I’m safe” or “I’m not in the area”. Tap or click on the appropriate selection and your friends and family will be notified of your status. You will also be able to see which friends are in the affected area and who has checked in as safe.
Below is a view of Safety Check on a desktop computer. There is a sort feature on the left to see separate lists of who has or hasn’t checked in as safe. There is also a search box for looking up names of your friends and family. On the far right is a map that shows the area included in the Safety Check and an update on the event.