Facebook activated its “Safety Check” option after the fatal shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, making it the first time the tool was ever used in the USA.
A lone gunman entered the Pulse nightclub at around 2:00 A.M. and opened fire, killing at least 50 people and wounding 53 more in what has been described as the worst mass shooting incident in the country.
The Facebook tool was initially released in 2014. It helps Facebook users in the vicinity of a disaster or incident to let friends and family know if they’re safe. The tool asks users known to be in the affected area to identify if they are unharmed, and can then notify others of their situation by clicking a button, says an article in PC World.
Facebook said in the past months that they have been working to improve the launch process to make it easier and quicker to activate the Safety Check, while also testing ways to let users determine crises levels and elevate them, if need be. For example, the social media giant has automated the deployment of the tool so that their teams across different time zones can activate the tool at any time, rather than waiting for a Facebook engineer to do it.
A spokesperson for Facebook said,
Following the community-generated Safety Check activation this morning in Orlando, we have now activated Facebook-initiated Safety Check for a mass shooting at a nightclub there. We hope the people in the area find the tool a helpful way to let their friends and family know they are okay.
Facebook has activated 17 Safety Checks this year, compared to 11 in the past two years. The tool was initially used for natural disasters, such as earthquakes in Ecuador, the wildfires in Canada, a cyclone in Bangladesh and so on.
With the Paris attacks in November last year, Facebook has broadened its Safety Check to include terrorist attacks. Paris was the first time the tool was used for a non-natural disaster event after it recognized that, “Facebook became a place where people were sharing information and looking to understand the condition of their loved ones,” according to its company post at the time.