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Facebook expands local alert tool within the US

The tool has been designed to help local authorities to communicate urgent, need-to-know information when it directly affects people in their communities.

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The tool can alert people to take action when something happens in their community
The tool can alert people to take action when something happens in their community

Facebook is to roll out a tool to local governments and first responders in the US that will allow them to issue alerts to their communities during emergency situations.

 

When a Facebook page associated with a city or county government or first responder mark posts as a “local alert”, Facebook said it will “greatly amplify” their reach so that people living in an affected community are much more likely to see them.

 

Need-to-know information

 

The tool was designed to help local authorities to communicate urgent, need-to-know information when it directly affects people in their communities or requires them to take action.

 

Notifications will be sent to people living in the affected area, and that information will also be displayed on Today In, a local news section on Facebook.

 

The social media giant began testing the new tool in 2018 and intends for it to be made available to any eligible Facebook page by the end 2019.

 

Over the past year, Facebook reports information officers from more than 350 local governments have used local alerts in a range of everyday emergencies as well as some crises.

 

These include flash flood warnings, mandatory evacuations, missing people reports, water main breaks, active shooters, road closures, winter storms, extreme temperature warnings, and bomb threats.

“This helps us ensure that local authorities reach only the people they need to reach during these urgent situations”

Writing in a blog post, Anthea Watson Strong, product manager for Today In at Facebook, said since it started testing local alerts, it has invested in making these alerts smarter, allowing partners to specify whether they’re sending a missing person alert, a public safety alert or a weather alert, for example.

 

It has also bid to make them more targeted, by giving partners the ability to select the affected counties, cities, towns or neighbourhoods that should receive notifications.

 

“This helps us ensure that local authorities reach only the people they need to reach during these urgent situations,” she said.

 

She continued: “The work we’ve done over the past year to improve local alerts, has given us confidence that we should provide access to eligible local governments and first responders everywhere, so they can have another tool in their toolkit to keep people in their communities safe.”

 

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