Facebook Launches 'Safety Check' That Lets Loved Ones Know You're Safe

New tool notifies family and friends back home that travelers are okay in the event of a natural disaster.

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As authorities in Nepal continue the hunt for missing trekkers, Facebook launched a new feature to help users let loved ones know they are safe when disaster strikes.

The "Safety Check" tool allows users to "let friends and family know you’re safe; check on others in the affected area; and mark your friends as safe," Facebook said Wednesday in a press release.

The social media giant started developing the tool after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, it said. "Our engineers in Japan took the first step toward creating a product to improve the experience of reconnecting after a disaster. They built the Disaster Message Board to make it easier to communicate with others. They launched a test of the tool a year later and the response was overwhelming," the company said.

How does it work? "When the tool is activated after a natural disaster and if you’re in the affected area, you’ll receive a Facebook notification asking if you’re safe," Facebook said.

"We’ll determine your location by looking at the city you have listed in your profile, your last location if you’ve opted in to the Nearby Friends product, and the city where you are using the internet. If we get 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."