To help its users gather information about unfolding natural, man-made or humanitarian disasters, Google has added SOS Alerts to its search results and maps tools.
According to a Google post on Tuesday, people can get access to critical information and resources from local authorities and first responders, and will be shown news articles, emergency telephone numbers and other useful information in a single place.
“During a crisis, people need real-time information. Whether they’re experiencing an issue on the ground or trying to understand the situation from afar, we want our products to give people quick access to important information such as what is going on and where it is happening to help them stay safe and informed,” Google said.
When SOS Alert is activated, Google maps tool suggests which areas should be avoided, the roads that have been closed and places where people can seek refuge in.
According to a report in the BBC, data gathered from the firm’s crowdsourced Waze mapping platform also makes it possible to see where traffic jams, accidents and other problems have been reported by the public.
“The level of detail shown within the search tool depends on whether the person carrying out the query is close to the incident. If nearby, they are presented with links to official alerts, tweets from first responders and useful short phrases in the local language,” the report said.
Google has collaborated with several government bodies, the Red Cross and other organisations to help provide SOS Alerts in 12 countries, including the US, Japan, Philippines, Australia and Canada.
Google’s Public Alerts complement SOS Alerts by helping the local and public authorities communicate emergency messages specifically related to official weather, public safety and earthquake alerts.
According to reports, Google has set up a team to decide which events warranted an SOS Alert, but it is yet to be known how many people have been entrusted the job.