The Facebook Safety Check is a system that Facebook has put in place to allow users to mark themselves safe during emergency or crisis situations. Facebook's safety feature helps you alert family and friends so they know you are safe and sound should disaster strike.
This feature was launched in October 2014 and designed for use in natural disasters. Since that time, Facebook has expanded their list of instances when the Facebook Safety Check will go into effect. Currently, it is being implemented in various emergency situations; for example, shootings, tsunamis, earthquakes, and terrorist attacks. Most recently, the feature has been at work during the historical flood in South Louisiana.
There were some initial concerns regarding the safety feature launch and the ability to connect to the internet amid crises. Unique to the flooding in South Louisiana, this was not an issue for a number of people during the flood. Power remained on during the flood’s beginning stages ensuring Wifi connection and the Facebook Safety Check for many.
I marked myself safe using the Facebook Safety Check feature on Friday, August 12, 2016, when Facebook prompted me to let my family and loved ones know I was high and dry amid the flood waters. I proceeded to click “I’m Safe” and look through the list of my connected friends that also marked themselves safe.
But were they really safe?
On Friday, people were on edge due to the constant rain but the flood waters had yet to affect many in the area. So on Friday when a large amount of my Facebook friends marked themselves safe, we had not seen the worst of the storm and flood waters consistently rising. On Saturday, when many of Baton Rouge, Denham Springs, and Prairieville residents woke up to water entering their homes, we became more aware of the flood disaster that was occurring. With no sign of the flood waters slowing down, it was evident that some people who may have claimed themselves “Safe” were far from it.
Because of the constant fluidity of an emergency situation, I have determined some pros and cons of using the Facebook Safety Check feature during the floods in Louisiana:
- Let a multitude of people know you are okay at one time.
- The ability to use the safety check even if cell service is down.
- There is a request feature that allows you to ask friends if they are safe.
- People who normally don’t engage with Facebook used the feature.
- During a situation that is constantly changing, your safety status can change at any moment. If you have already marked yourself safe, this can become a problem.
- There is a steady influx of messages after you mark yourself safe.
- There is only the ability to report yourself as “Safe.” If you are not safe, then you are seen as “Not Marked.”
In my situation, Facebook was extremely helpful. At times, it was my only outlet for communication with loved ones. Facebook has made improvements since the release of the feature in 2014, and I am eager to see how they will evolve the safety check further.