Google has announced the launch of a new safety feature, SOS Alerts, to give users access to timely, actionable information in times of crisis.
During a crisis, users may see an SOS Alert at the top of search results when searching for the incident or location. They will see maps, top stories and – when available – authoritative local information such as emergency phone numbers, websites, and translations of useful phrases. Depending on how close the user is to the affected area, they may also get a notification on their mobile device that directs you to this information.
If they’re outside of the affected area, users may still want information about the crisis. Searches for relevant terms (like the name of the event or the location) will also show an SOS Alert that provides a timely overview of the situation, in addition to features such as donation opportunities.
Google Maps on mobile can also show SOS Alerts. In Maps, users will see a specific icon on the map and a card with more information about the crisis, such as helpful phone numbers and websites. The map will also include real-time updates, like road closures and traffic and transit updates.
Google has worked closely with organisations and government agencies that are on the front lines of relief efforts, including the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration and many others. “Radio and television were once the only channels to quickly provide information in an emergency, but the internet and mobile phones have become increasingly important,” said Robert Glenn, Director at FEMA.
In addition to SOS Alerts and other crisis response features – including Google Person Finder, Google Crisis Map and Google Public Alerts – the company’s philanthropic arm Google.org provides grants and volunteers for communities impacted by crises.