Facebook began testing local alerts from local government and first-responder pages early last year, and the social network revealed plans last week to extend the feature to all eligible pages in the U.S. by the end of the year.
When Facebook detailed the feature’s original test last November, it said in a Newsroom post that more than 100 pages from local government bodies and first responders were involved, and they were using the feature to share time-sensitive updates on events such as major road closures, blackouts or natural disasters.
The social network added at the time that 17 first-responder pages posted 73 local alerts during Hurricane Florence last September.
Today In product manager Anthea Watson Strong provided updated details on the feature’s testing in a blog post last week, saying that 350 local governments have been participating, using local alerts to update people on situations including mandatory evacuations, active shooters, missing people reports, water main breaks, extreme temperature warnings and road closures.
She added that when local authorities tag posts as local alerts, Facebook amplifies their reach so that people in affected areas are more likely to see those posts, adding that a survey found that 73% of people who saw local alert posts on the social network learned new information that they hadn’t seen elsewhere, while 43% took actions as a result of that information.
Facebook is placing local alert indicators next to these posts in News Feed, and they will also be displayed in its Today In section for local news and information in areas where that feature is available.
Strong wrote, “Since we started testing local alerts, we’ve 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. And we’ve made them more targeted by giving our partners the ability to select the affected counties, cities, towns or neighborhoods that should receive notifications. This helps us ensure that local authorities reach only the people they need to reach during these urgent situations.”
Page administrators for pages associated with city or county governments or local emergency units, fire departments and law enforcement agencies can fill out this form to be alerted when the feature is expanded to their regions.
As for users, Strong suggested following local first-responder pages or, if they are in areas where it is available, subscribing to updates from Today In.
She added that people can visit Facebook’s Crisis Response area during times of crisis to do things such as seeing who marked themselves safe, helping those who are affected and receiving the latest information.
Strong concluded, “Local alerts is just one of the ways that we’re helping connect people with important community information. We’ll have more to share on that soon.”