Facebook’s Community Help is a forum for survivors to mount rescue efforts

facebook journalism grants login smartphone
Facebook’s Safety Check tool makes it easy to check up on loved ones after a terrorist attack, earthquake, hurricane, or other disaster, but there isn’t much more to it. Survivors can notify friends that they’re alive and well, but aren’t pointed in the direction of resources that might be able to help in an emergency. That’s about to change, though. On Wednesday, Facebook added a new component to Safety Check called Community Help, which provides a semi-public message board for survivors.

It’s a lot like an internet forum. Community Help, which Facebook previewed during its Community Help expansion during its Social Good Forum in November, lets users to post by location. It provides categories for food, water, shelter, transportation, baby supplies, and equipment, and a dedicated messaging function through which users can exchange information.

“It becomes really easy to get in touch with people in your community who you may not be friends with,” Preethi Cheetan, Safety Check’s product designer, told CNET.

Facbebook says Community Help was inspired by how users banded to help one another in times of need, but it’s also aimed at addressing “missed connections.”

Facebook cited last year’s Alberta wildfire as an example: Users affected by the fire made their own support groups with posts offering shelter, including one — “Help Together, Fort McMurray Fire” — in which a man offered four bedrooms in his home for everyone displaced. But posts and groups tended to be disorganized, Chetan said, and members found it difficult to coordinate rescue efforts across multiple pages. And users had trouble contacting those in need because of their privacy settings.

facebook community help safety check 2

Facebook described Community Check as the next logical step for Safety Check. Since Safety Check’s introduction in 2014, it’s been activated 335 times, notably during the devastating 2015 earthquake in Nepal, the November 2015 Paris attacks, and the 2016 Berlin attack. But Facebook’s been criticized for its decisions on when to use the feature. In response last year, it announced that it would begin relying on user activity — namely keywords indicating danger like “shooting” or “explosion,” and spikes in posts — to trigger alerts automatically.

Community Check will launch in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Saudi Arabia before rolling out to Facebook’s wider 1.8 billion-member audience.

Facebook’s not the only company doing more to connect friends and family in the aftermath of a disaster. Google’s Person finder, which the company deployed in response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, is a message board and registry for survivors, family, and loved ones affected by a natural disaster to post and search for information about each other’s status and whereabouts. And in December 2016, Google launched Trusted Contacts, an app that alerts select groups of people about users’ status and exact location.

Mobile

Apple AirPods may be used to spy on conversations, but please don’t

Apple added Live Listen to the AirPods through the iOS 12 update last September, to help users with minor hearing issues. However, a viral tweet is suggesting that the feature may be used to eavesdrop on the conversations of other people.
Computing

Stop dragging windows on your Mac. Here's how to use Split View to multitask

The latest iterations of MacOS offer a native Split View feature that can automatically divide screen space between two applications. Here's how to use Split View on a Mac, adjust it as needed, and how it can help out.
Gaming

Take a trip to a new virtual world with one of these awesome HTC Vive games

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.
Movies & TV

From premiere date to footage: Here's all we have on 'Game of Thrones' season 8

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable, if you don't mind spoilers.
Social Media

Spice up your Instagram videos by adding your top tunes to the soundtrack

Have you ever taken a beautiful video, only to have it ruined by some jerk in the background yelling curse words? Here's a list of apps you can use to add your own music to Instagram posts as well as your Story.
Home Theater

Dolby’s secret recording studio app may soon exit stealth mode

In secret testing since June, Dolby's stealth recording and social network app may soon be ready to make an appearance. Dolby 234 blends unique noise-canceling tech with Instagram-like audio filters.
Mobile

5G phones make a lot of promises. Here’s what to really expect

There has been a lot of marketing copy expounding the potential benefits of 5G networks, but a lot less on the practical implications of 5G smartphones. There's a reason for that.
Business

Google is buying mysterious smartwatch tech from The Fossil Group for $40 million

Google is about to step up its smartwatch game. The company has agreed to buy an unnamed smartwatch technology from The Fossil Group for a hefty $40 million. Considering the acquisition, it's clear Google is serious about smartwatches.
Mobile

Here’s how to take a screenshot on an iPad, step by step

The ability to capture screenshots may not be the iPad's most glamorous feature, but it's one of its most useful. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to take a screenshot on an iPad, whether it's an iPad Pro from 2018 or an older iPad model.
Home Theater

Here are some common AirPods problems, and how to fix them

Apple’s AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds we’ve seen, but they’re not perfect. If you’re having trouble, take a look at our guide to the most common problems and what you can do to fix them.
Social Media

Here’s how to save someone’s Instagram Story to your phone

Curious about how to save someone's Instagram Story to your phone? Lucky for you, it can be done -- but it does take a few extra steps. Here's what you need to know to save Instagram Stories on both iOS and Android.
Wearables

Lack of regulation means wearables aren’t held accountable for health claims

As fitness trackers become more like health monitors, some physicians are concerned they can lead to over-diagnosis of non-existent problems. It’s already happening with wearable baby monitors.
Mobile

Here’s how to download podcasts and listen to them on Android or iOS

Podcasts have become a cultural staple. Here's how to download podcasts and listen to them on your Android or iOS device, and which apps to use if you're looking to get the most out of the format.
Business

Apple banned from distributing some iPhone models in Germany

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.