How to Let People Know You’re Safe During an Emergency
Whether you are walking down a street alone, are traveling to a summer location that has an unexpected natural disaster, or get caught up in any other type of emergency, it’s helpful to know ahead of time about these four sources of help for letting your friends and loved ones know that you’re safe when cell phone calls aren’t going through:
1. Google’s Trusted Contacts
2. Facebook’s Safety Check
3. Apple’s Find My Friends
4. Tips from the Red Cross
Google’s Trusted Contacts
Whether you’re hiking alone or walking down a dark street, sometimes you want to know that someone’s got your back. To help you feel safe and give your friends and family peace of mind, Google created Trusted Contacts. This new personal safety app lets you share your location with loved ones in everyday situations and when emergencies arise, even if your phone is offline or you can’t get to it.
Here’s how it works:
Once you install the Android app, you can assign “trusted” status to your closest friends and family. Your trusted contacts will be able to see your activity status-whether you’ve moved around recently and are online-to quickly know if you’re OK. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel unsafe, you can share your actual location with your trusted contacts. And if your trusted contacts are really worried about you, they can request to see your location. If everything’s fine, you can deny the request. But if you’re unable to respond within a reasonable timeframe, your location is shared automatically, and your loved ones can determine the best way to help you out. Of course, you can stop sharing your location or change your trusted contacts whenever you want.
Facebook Safety Check
In times of disaster or crisis, people turn to Facebook to check on loved ones and get updates. It’s in these moments that communication is most critical both for people in the affected areas and for their friends and families who are anxious for news. Facebook has a helpful tool called Safety Check, a simple and easy way to say you’re safe and to check on others.
During a major disaster or crisis, Safety Check will help you
let friends and family know you’re safe;
check on others in the affected area;
mark your friends as safe;
protect your privacy-only your friends will see your safety status and the comments you share.
Here’s how it works:
When the tool is activated by Facebook-and if you’re in the affected area-you’ll receive a Facebook notification asking if you’re safe.
Facebook will determine your location by looking at the city you have listed in your profile, your last location if you’ve opted into the Nearby Friends product, and the city where you are using the internet.
If Facebook gets your location wrong, you can mark that you’re outside the affected area.
If you’re safe, you can select “I’m Safe,” and a notification and News Feed story will be generated with your update. Your friends can also mark you as safe.
Apple’s Find My Friends
Not a dedicated emergency response option, the Find My Friends app lets you easily share your location with family and friends, but it does require that
– you set up sharing in advance with your friends who have an iPhone or iPad;
– your friends turn on “Allow Friend Requests” in order to see your location.
When you use the app, friends you’re sharing with will see you as a dot on a map that will automatically refresh as you move. Friends can even get directions to your location. This particular app will only let your friends know your location, not whether you’re safe. (This app is also helpful in tracking the whereabouts of teen drivers-but that’s another article!)
Red Cross tips
Be creative and persistent. If one contact method doesn’t work, try another.
Call during off-peak hours for the best chance of getting through.
Send a text message, which may go through when phone calls cannot.
Check your loved one’s social media pages (i.e., Facebook, Twitter), as they already may have gone online to tell their story.
Send an email.
Call friends and relatives who already may have been in contact with your loved one.
Call people and places where your loved one is well-known: neighbors, employer, school, place of worship, senior center, social club, union, or fraternal organization.
If your loved one has a serious, preexisting physical or mental health condition, you may also initiate an Emergency Information Request by calling your local American Red Cross chapter or 1-800-RED-CROSS.
With all of these helpful options, it’s best to create an emergency contact plan ahead of time with friends and family, so if a crisis does happen, you’ll be better prepared to connect with them.