Published: Thu, February 09, 2017
Hi-Tech | By Lula West

Facebook's Community Help lets you aid your neighbors in a crisis

Facebook's Community Help lets you aid your neighbors in a crisis

Facebook first got involved in crisis safety back in 2011 with the distribution of Amber Alerts in its app that the company says have since helped rescue three kidnapped kids.

Last year Facebook announced Community Help, a new part of its Safety Check feature created to connect disaster victims with Facebook users in the area who are offering their help. Its aim is to avoid situations like those before when in a time of need - the wildfire in Alberta in May past year - people offering help couldn't properly connect to those who sought shelter.

In order to use Community Help, Safety Check must first be activated. Events can trigger Safety Check if an approved global crisis reporting agency such as NC4 or iJET worldwide alerts Facebook that an incident has occurred.

If there's enough of a critical mass of folks talking about it, Safety Check will then trigger for that particular event, calling for locals to mark themselves safe.

Facebook only plans for now to activate Community Help in the event of accidental or natural disasters, but said it'll consider expanding criteria to include "additional types of incidents".

Community Help will be initiated for natural disasters and accidents, like earthquakes or building fires, according to a blog post by Naomi Gleit, a Facebook vice president. "We saw people using Facebook to tell friends and family they were OK after crises, so in 2014 we launched Safety Check to make that behavior even easier".

Facebook's Safety Check has come in handy for everyone during times of crisis around the world. They can find or give help, and message others directly to connect from within Safety Check.

Facebook Product Designer Preethi Chethan explains more in this Medium post.

This feature exists within Safety Check itself, so it's useful to have some background on how the whole thing actually works. Facebook said it had seen people offering similar services in posts and Groups and made a decision to formalise the service.

Slightly different than Airbnb's tool, Facebook's Community Help focuses on connecting people on its platform through a "virtual classified advertising section". Originally unveiled in November, Community Help was designed as a hub to connect communities affected by natural disasters with individuals and organizations willing to offer help.

Since June 2016, Safety Check has been activated hundreds of times, Facebook said. You can search for the type of help you need from categories including food, transportation, baby supplies, pet supplies, shelter and water. She might see a post from John offering an extra room.

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