Authorities to send emergency alerts via Facebook in US

San Francisco, Aug 28 (IANS) Facebook has expanded its emergency alert feature to local governments and first responders in the US who can now use the feature to send alerts to communities in case of an emergency like floods, terror attacks, gun shooting and so on.

Currently the social networking giant with 2.41 billion global users offers "Safety Check" feature globally which, when activated during an emergency, let you alert others if you are safe.

"We're announcing that we'll start to open up access to local alerts -- Facebook's tool to help local governments and first responders keep people in their communities safe and in-the-know a" to any eligible Facebook Page in the US by the end of the year," the company said in a statement late Tuesday.

The new, free tool is designed to help local governments communicate urgent, need-to-know information when it directly affects people in the communities or requires them to take action.

When authorities mark posts as local alerts, we greatly amplify their reach so that people living in an affected community are much more likely to see them.

"We send notifications to people living in the affected area, and we also show that information on 'Today In', a new place on Facebook for local news, community information, and conversations between neighbours," said Facebook.

People will also see the local alert indicator next to their post in News Feed.

Over the past year, information officers from over 350 local governments have used local alerts in a range of everyday emergencies -- and some crises -- including flash flood warnings, mandatory evacuations, missing people reports, water main breaks, active shooters, road closures, winter storms, extreme temperature warnings, bomb threats and many more.

To test whether the tool is providing value to people on Facebook or not, the company surveyed about 2,000 people who had seen posts marked as local alerts, and found that 73 per cent reported the posts provided new information they hadn't yet seen elsewhere.

Nearly 43 per cent reported that they took an action as a result of the information they saw and 80 per cent reported that posts were at least somewhat valuable.

The local alerts feature is currently available in the US.

--IANS

na/dpb

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