Google is investing heavily in making the world a safe place, or at least letting people keep abreast of developments in case of emergencies. Google will start putting emergency information about fires, floods and other disasters in relevant search results and Maps locations. This feature is known as SOS Alerts, and it will include information such as news stories, emergency phone numbers, relevant websites and updates from local officials.
These alerts will be created and crated by Google staff. It also means that Google’s teams will have to pick and choose which events get SOS Alerts. Google has already warned that it will not cover everything.
While the company cannot guarantee that everyone will get a SOS Alert for every major crisis, it aims to make them available more broadly over time. Also, it seems like Google could be planning to cover attacks as well. Its help site says that alerts may appear for a “human-caused crisis”.
This SOS Alerts feature is meant to help out people who are actively looking for information about a disaster. But Google says that in some cases, it may send out push alerts to people in a disaster area directing them to this information too.
These alerts seem to be Google’s version of Facebook’s Safety Check feature, which provides similar information and lets people check in to tell friends that they’re safe in a disaster. Facebook’s feature received a mixed response, though. There has been controversy over when it gets activated (Facebook has handed over activation to users since), and even when it gets activated the feature is quite annoying. Google avoids this issue by having this feature be informational only.
For one thing, Google does not have a widely used social network to base such a feature around, so there’s that. This may be less useful in some ways, but it will offer additional information to those who want it. That sounds more helpful.