As Hurricane Matthew continues to wreak havoc upon the Atlantic coast, Facebook has once again activated its Safety Check to enable users to alert their friends and family that they have remained out of harm’s way. The social network turned on this feature late last week as the storm left death and destruction in its path, and noted in a statement, “Our hearts go out to the people affected by this tragic event. We hope the people in the area find the tool a helpful way to let their friends and family know they are okay.”
To use the feature, those in the area simply need to indicate (when prompted) that they are safe, whereupon their Facebook friends will be notified of their updated status. Users not in the area can also check on a list of friends who might’ve been affected by the storm, and see whether or not they’ve marked themselves as unharmed.
First deployed in 2014, Facebook’s Safety Check is often a magnet for controversy — questions have been raised in the past about when the social network chooses to activate the tool, and perhaps more saliently, when it does not. In the instance of Hurricane Matthew, for example, it would appear that the Safety Check was only turned on when the storm began making its way towards the U.S., not as it decimated parts of Haiti.
But now, those living along the East Coast of the U.S. can assure loved ones that they’re safe and sound, which should come as a relief, considering that Hurricane Matthew has spurred the most extensive mandatory evacuations since 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.
On Saturday, Matthew left record-breaking flooding in its wake as it moved across North Carolina and southeast Virginia. “This rainfall is leading to record-breaking flooding over portions of eastern North Carolina, and it may result in life-threatening flooding and flash flooding elsewhere across the region,” the National Hurricane Center said. At least 13 deaths in the U.S. have been attributed to the storm, and some 2.2 million households and businesses are without power.