We all cringe whenever Facebook announces a new feature. They often make things worse, not better. Remember when Facebook made you download the Messenger app to send and receive messages on your smartphone or tablet? Not many people were happy about that. Or how about layout changes? It takes weeks to get used to a new look.
But yesterday, Facebook rolled out a new tool that I pray you'll never need, but if you do, you'll be glad you have it. It's called Safety Check, and it's a simple but effective way to find out if your family is safe in the event of an emergency.
If you or a loved one has been in a crisis situation in the last few years, you may have already used Facebook to let each other know you're safe or to find out whether they are. In fact, during major natural disasters, you've probably seen affected friends post their status online. It may even be as simple as a quick "I'm safe" status update.
Facebook engineers saw this happening around the devastating 2011 Japanese tsunami. Their work on a safety message board eventually turned into Safety Check. Here's how it works: When a natural disaster or emergency occurs, the tool will activate. Your profile location or GPS location will let Facebook know if it thinks you're in the affected area. You'll get a notification on your phone, tablet or desktop asking whether you're safe. All you need to do is mark safe or that you're not actually in the area.
Then you can see a list of all your friends who may be in the area and whether they're safe. If you're with somebody, you can also mark them safe. You'll be able to see a list of friends who aren't safe yet so you can check on them either through Facebook or with a phone call.
If you have a Facebook account, you have Safety Check. You may never see it or use it, but it's good to know it's there just in case. But there are 10 essential apps every phone or tablet should have to protect you in emergencies. Click here to get them right now.