I was sad to wake up this morning to the news of more fires in Ventura County, California. I’ve lived in the state at two different points in my life, once in Los Angeles and once in San Jose and I still have lots of friends there. So when I hear about wildfires or earthquakes or terrorist attacks in those areas, I immediately start looking for more information.
Earlier this year, Google added a new SOS Alerts feature to its Search and Maps services. In Search, when you enter words related to the crisis, it will bring up the latest information from key response and news organizations including affected areas, evacuation orders, road closures, phone hotlines, and places you can donate to help. If Google knows your location, it will give you different information depending on whether you’re near the disaster area or not.
NOTE: Your search query needs to be fairly specific. When I searched on “California fires,” I didn’t get the SOS Alert, but I did for “Ventura County fires.”
If you’re searching an affected area in Maps, it will display a special icon that you can click to get more information as well. You can find SOS Alerts in the Android and iOS apps for both Search and Maps and Search also provides it on Google’s desktop and mobile website.
NOTE: When I searched on Ventura County in Google Maps on my Android phone, I got the icon, but no extra information. On my iPhone, there was no icon at all. So it seems like the feature still needs some work in Maps.
Learn more about SOS Alerts in this Google blog post and Help page. >>
Another good resource if you’re in a disaster area is Facebook’s Safety Check, where you can let your family and friends know you’re safe.
Do you know any other good online resources for crisis information? Add a comment below!
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