Google on Tuesday introduced SOS Alerts feature to its services including Google Search, Google News, and Google Maps, to inform people in a situation of crisis. This new feature will essentially provide relevant information about natural or human-caused (attacks) disasters to people who are either in the affected area or looking for more details about the situation.
Depending on the search query and your proximity to the area affected from a particular disaster, you will see an SOS Alert from Google at the top of search results. "You'll see maps, top stories and-when available-authoritative local information such as emergency phone numbers, websites, and translations of useful phrases," Google said in its blog post.
The search giant says that depending on how close you are to the affected area, you might also get a notification on your mobile device that will direct you to this information. If you are farther away from the affected area, the search queries about the relevant location will produce an SOS alert that will provide an overview of the situation. Further, Google will also present the donation opportunities to the users with these alerts.
During these crisis situations, users will see SOS Alerts inside Google Maps with an icon and a tappable card that provides information on help numbers and websites. As you might expect, Google Maps will also present real-time updates regarding road closures and traffic.
For its crisis response products, Google says that it has worked closely with organisations including the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency among others.
Notably, the company says that the SOS alerts will be available in languages of the affected area as well as English. While Google says that it cannot guarantee that you will be able to see SOS Alerts for every major crisis as of now, it does plan to make them available more broadly over time. Google CEO Sundar Pichai also introduced the feature in a tweet on Tuesday, saying "In times of crisis, access to timely, actionable info is crucial so we are launching SOS alerts in Search & Maps."
We live in a world where information can easily be the difference between life and death. Google's latest effort towards providing relevant information about the crisis situations can be termed as a commendable effort and should prove to be of help for a large section of people. This feature might remind some people of Facebook's Safety Check Feature but clearly seems to be aimed at providing more value.