Internet giant Google is adding a new feature to its Search and Maps tools designed to help users during natural disasters, terrorist attacks and other crises.
Named SOS Alerts, the new feature aims ‘to make emergency information more accessible during a natural or human-caused crisis’.
It does this by collecting and displaying ‘relevant and authoritative content from the web, social media, and Google products, and then highlight that information on Google products such as Search and Maps.’
Depending on the nature of the crisis, this information could include updates from local authorities, news articles, contact details for emergency resources, maps of the area, donation opportunities and more.
Google users searching for information about a crisis in Google Search will find an SOS Alert just below the search bar, while users who have installed the latest version of the Google app and have their location turned on may receive a notification on their mobile device’s home screen.
SOS Alerts in Google Maps will be displayed on the map and users can tap the SOS Alerts icon to get more information, such as emergency numbers and websites plus live updates about the crisis.
Other information provided via SOS Alerts in Google Maps will include areas that should be avoided, roads that have been closed and places where people can go to seek refuge.
Google is also releasing another feature named Public Alerts designed to help local and public authorities communicate emergency messages with civilians and is ‘specifically related to official weather, public safety, and earthquake alerts.’
Google is working with a number of partners including the Red Cross to provide SOS Alerts to the following 12 countries:
- The Philippines
- New Zealand
It’s very likely that Google will continue to expand this feature to other countries over the next year.