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Google’s Public Alerts service launches in Japan, offers up-to-date information during natural disasters

japanIn Japan, Mother Nature is well known for keeping the population on its toes, with earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis, floods and even the occasional volcanic eruption hitting the headlines all too often.

This evidently hasn’t escaped the notice of the folks at Google, who on Thursday launched its Public Alerts service for those living in the East Asian nation. The online system is designed to provide up-to-the-minute information and relevant emergency alerts in the event of a natural disaster.

“With nearly 5,000 earthquakes a year, it’s important for people in Japan to have crisis preparedness and response information available at their fingertips,” Google partner technology manager Yu Chen wrote in a post announcing the news. “And from our own research, we know that when a disaster strikes, people turn to the Internet for more information about what is happening.”

Chen said that relevant earthquake and tsunami warnings for Japan will now appear on Google Search, Google Maps and Google Now.

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If, for example, you open Google Now on your Android device following a major quake, you’ll be able to find information tailored to your exact location. So if you’re in an area for which a tsunami alert has been issued, you’ll be notified of the alert, together with evacuation instructions.

The web giant said it will pull much of its emergency information from Japan’s Meteorological Agency before reconfiguring it for its Public Alerts service.

“We hope our technology, including Public Alerts, will help people better prepare for future crises and create more far-reaching support for crisis recovery,” Chen wrote in the post.

The rollout of Public Alerts in Japan marks the first international expansion of a service that debuted in the US last year.

Google’s service will complement Twitter’s Lifeline feature, which launched in Japan last September. This also enables users to receive important updates and alerts during a crisis by generating a list of relevant Twitter accounts actively posting emergency information. And there’s also Facebook’s Disaster Message Board, a feature that enables users to show friends and family that they’re safe during a disaster or other emergency situation.

[Top image: Bambuh / Shutterstock]