In the wake of a disaster, one of the most terrifying things is not knowing if your loved ones are safe. Contact can be difficult: Landlines can go down and cellphones can lose their charge. Even if you call your mother and tell her you’re safe, you still have a large network of friends and family that might still be worried about you.
That’s why Facebook’s new Disaster Message Board makes sense. Right now it’s only being tested in Japan, which is still dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.
It works by sending you a reminder in your News Feed to mark yourself as “SAFE” after a major disaster. If you know your friends are okay, you can mark them “SAFE” as well, plus add details about where you and your friends are headed or how to reach you.
Those on the outside looking in can search for friends and family by city and engage in a dialogue with others who come to a person’s profile looking for information.
The nationwide test started yesterday in Japan and ends today. Obviously the opportunities for testing the Disaster Message Board are limited, but it seems like a no-brainer from Facebook’s perspective. The concept of using a few seconds of internet access — which can obviously be very limited during a disaster — to tell people that you are alive and well instead trying to deal with a flood of incoming cellphone calls during a period of spotty or non-existence coverage seems so obvious it’s a wonder nobody thought of it before.