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“I’m Safe”. Just what you wanted to hear.

In recent years it’s been noted that, despite almost everyone having mobile phones, it’s still incredibly difficult to get information in and out from a disaster area. Some startups have developed apps that use mesh networks Mesh Networks: The Future of Communication Mesh Networks: The Future of Communication Mesh networks are almost invulnerable. In a mesh network, there are no choke points through which all traffic passes. Instead, information is passed from one device to the next until it reaches its destination. Read More to communicate between mobile users, such as Firechat FireChat: How to Chat Without Wifi or a Signal FireChat: How to Chat Without Wifi or a Signal Slow connection? Can't find Wi-Fi? No problem! The FireChat app allows users to stay connected off the grid. Read More and Serval How To Use Serval Mesh To Chat To Other Mobile Phones Without A Phone Network [Android 2.2+] How To Use Serval Mesh To Chat To Other Mobile Phones Without A Phone Network [Android 2.2+] For those of us living in first world cities, it's hard to imagine how we would get on if we couldn't communicate easily with our mobile phones. Yes, some of us might recall the days... Read More . But there is more that can be done to connect the people within a disaster area with the rest of the world, and to get help to the people in need.

Meanwhile, Facebook has really moved on from being just a place to poke your friends and play Farmville, although many people haven’t quite realized that yet. Have you noticed Facebook’s disaster efforts? Let’s take a look.

Safety Check

If you’ve ever seen the “I’m Safe” reports from people, you’ve seen Facebook’s Safety Check in action. The idea is to get information from the disaster area back to loved ones as quickly as possible. It works by asking people in the area to make a quick declaration, either to say “I’m Safe” or “I’m not in the area”. This message will be shown to your friends only.

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If you were near a disaster area, the safety check would look like a simple couple of buttons for you to choose from. It pops up wherever you’re logged in to Facebook, whether it’s your phone, tablet or browser.

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On mobile apps, it even has a push notification to get you to respond straight away. The following video shows how quickly you can respond, and how your friends will see the update in their notifications. Anyone who knows someone in the area can see the list of friends affected at a glance, and instantly check who has not marked themselves as safe yet.

It all began after the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Facebook engineers there realized that Facebook could be a valuable tool in reconnecting people after a major disaster. A year later they launched the Disaster Message Board, which has since evolved into Facebook’s Safety Check feature. During Hurricane Sandy in 2012 it was Twitter’s efforts that helped people connect during the disaster 5 Ways Social Media Makes The World A Better Place 5 Ways Social Media Makes The World A Better Place Social Media is often spoken of as a frivolity. It only takes a little digging to realize that social media can actually make the world a better place, lead social revolutions, and more. Read More , which is perhaps why Facebook stepped up its game.

Most recently the Safety Check was deployed to people in Nepal and surrounding areas, such as Bangladesh, India and Bhutan. In the case of the Nepal earthquakes, within days millions of people were marked as safe, while tens of millions of people were instantly alerted via Facebook that their friends were safe.

Fundraising For Survivors

But connecting people is not all that Facebook is doing during disasters. They realize that the Internet can be a great force for social good DancingMan, And 4 More Times The Internet Was a Positive Force DancingMan, And 4 More Times The Internet Was a Positive Force The Internet can be a mean place, full of trolls and scamsters. But just like real life, for all the bad, there's a lot of good out there. Read More , so they’re also using their platform and resources to help raise relief efforts.

This method of fundraising has multiple things going for it, and it marks a sort of coming-of-age for Facebook. Facebook is now truly using its platform for social good.

Facebook-Fundraising-donate

For starters, Facebook makes it easy to pay for things, and people worldwide have come to trust Facebook’s payment services. This can’t be said for a lot of the sites that spring up asking for fundraising donations Need Help Fundraising? Here Are 5 Alternatives To The ChipIn Widget Need Help Fundraising? Here Are 5 Alternatives To The ChipIn Widget Fundraising is a difficult task. In the old days, you’d have to throw an event or go door-to-door in hopes of soliciting donations from people in person. That still happens today, but the magic of... Read More , especially if they’re a local organisation to the disaster that’s not globally recognized.

The staff behind Facebook have ample resources available to them and so they can be sure they select a relief fund that is trustworthy and will make a real difference to the people in the disaster zone. Smaller companies find it harder to make a good decision when it comes to which charity to support.

With people using Facebook every day, the amount of people who know about their fundraising efforts is enormous. The prompt to donate to the latest disaster area is made prominent and will therefore be seen by everyone using the service.

The viral nature of Facebook means that whenever someone donates to an emergency fund via Facebook, all their friends are notified of the act. This serves to encourage other people to donate as well, and almost makes you feel a little guilty if you don’t. Especially so, since everyone will know you haven’t donated through Facebook yet. It’s a lot more useful than your everyday hashtag activism Hashtag Activism: #powerful or #pointless? Hashtag Activism: #powerful or #pointless? #BringBackOurGirls, #ICantBreathe, and #BlackLivesMatter have seen wide international coverage in the past year – but are hashtags an effective means of activism? Read More , as people know that you’ve actually done something to help, and they can too with just a couple of clicks.

Finally, Facebook themselves have a lot of money to donate to relief efforts, so they are able to use financial incentives to encourage users to donate more money. For the Nepal earthquakes, Facebook are offering to match every dollar donated up to $2 million.

Have You Donated?

Facebook has a dedicated page to make it easy to donate to the survivors of the Nepal earthquake. Have you donated yet? Was it via Facebook or another method?

What do you think of Facebook’s disaster efforts? What do you think they could improve on?

  1. Jessica C
    May 8, 2015 at 1:36 am

    I donated a little to the Canadian Red Cross for Nepal, through PayPal. The Canadian Government is matching donations made before May 25th, too, so that's a bonus.

    • dragonmouth
      May 8, 2015 at 12:43 pm

      Of course you do realize that the government is using your taxes to help Nepal rather than to fund some projects at home. While in this case the reason is humanitarian, in how many other cases it is not?

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