I recently posted about Google’s new 911 feature, which aims to help users figure out where they are so they can tell 911 operators in case of an emergency. Yesterday, Google launched ‘SOS Alerts’, a system that will alert you to any imminent danger in your vicinity, show closed roads and provide phone numbers for first responders and links to websites where people can provide financial help as needed. It also provides useful English translations of foreign news updates so that English speakers world wide can keep abreast of any developments.
According to Google, the SOS Alerts feature will “…help you quickly understand what’s going on and decide what to do during a crisis.” The new feature will report anything from wild fires to acts of terrorism and will appear either on top of search results when searching for information on an ongoing crisis or natural disaster, or in maps if you’ve allowed Google to know your location or if you search for a location in which an event is underway. If you aren’t close to the affected area but still want updates (for example if you have family or friends residing in the area, or who are on vacation there), all you have to do is search for the event name or location and Google will “…show an SOS Alert that provides a timely overview of the situation, in addition to features such as donation opportunities.”
SOS Alerts is currently only available on Android mobile devices but should soon be rolled out to Search on desktops as well as mobile web and Google apps for iOs devices. Google worked in association with the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration and many other agencies to create SOS Alerts so that as much critical (and timely) information could be uploaded as events unfold.
This is the latest Google update in their existing portfolio of crises features like Public Alerts, Crisis Map and People Finder. Of course, one must be able to rely on connectivity for this new feature to be beneficial, but I can see how it might make a difference in helping those close to the crisis – be it by providing crucial phone numbers and road closing information, and by allowing remote followers to offer financial aid to those in need.