Facebook Launching 'Community Help' Feature For Crisis Situations

Image: Facebook

"Checking in" when you're safe in an area where tragedy has struck is a common occurrence on the platform, but now Facebook wants to take it a step further - enabling people to offer food, clothing and shelter to community members in disaster situations.

"Community Help" is an update to the existing "Safety Check" feature, and will begin rollout from tomorrow in Australia.

"Our belief is that the community can teach us new ways to use the platform," Naomi Gleit, Facebook VP of 'Social Good' said in a blog post.

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

Gleit said Facebook was aware of people do this on their own through Groups and posts on occasions such as the flooding in Chennai, India, in December 2015. "But we knew we could do more. We also talked with experts, humanitarian relief organisations and our own in-the-field researchers to learn how to make it easier for people to find and give help".

Community Help will be available for natural and accidental incidents, like earthquakes or building fires. The US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and Saudi Arabia will get the feature first, then it will rollout globally - and for more types of "incidents".

Facebook explains the feature working as follows:

For the community to use Community Help after an incident, Safety Check must first be activated. For Safety Check to activate, 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 we begin monitoring for posts about the incident in the area.

Second, if a lot of people are talking about the incident, they may be prompted to mark themselves safe, and invite others to do the same.
And starting today, if an incident is a natural or accidental disaster, people will see Community Help. They can find or give help, and message others directly to connect from within Safety Check.

"With every activation, we are continuing to learn how to make Safety Check and features like Community Help better for people in need," Gleit said. "We will continue listening to feedback to make the tool more useful and relevant in the future."

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