On Saturday, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, and so far the death toll has eclipsed 4,000—and that number continues to grow. From landslides to an Everest avalanche, the quake triggered deadly events throughout the mountainous nation, and many individuals are still unaccounted for as a result. With families desperately trying to reach loved ones to ensure their safety, a unique app for Facebook has helped to allay some fears amid the destruction and chaos.
The Facebook-designed application “Safety Check”—which was unveiled last October—uses the social media platform’s geotagging features to locate people within affected disaster areas, and allows them to broadcast to their followers that they are safe and sound. Once Facebook determines their location (via geotag, last check-in or bio information that indicates residency in the area), users simply have to select that they are “safe,” which reflects on their profile.
Safety Check does not come without its own built-in issues, however. One glaring problem is the ability to even connect to the Internet in the event of a disaster. This is compounded when an event like an earthquake occurs in a remote country like Nepal, where smartphone usage is limited and the telecommunications infrastructure is not the greatest.
Still, if Facebook’s Safety Check app can provide relief for even a fraction of loved ones, it has to be considered a success.
“My father and friends are in the area and one of the first contact points we had to get some news was Facebook,” said Facebook user Tamy Lamos. This media is not always about likes and fun. When you or someone in your family is in danger, you’ll try any kind of contact and I’m glad Facebook helped me today.”