Google launched a new feature called “SOS Alerts” for Search and Maps, designed to help with crises and disasters by facilitating access to relevant information. While Facebook’s Safety Check allows users to mark themselves as safe in case of disaster, Google’s SOS Alerts simply aim to offer more information about what’s going on. These SOS Alerts will consist of emergency information about floods, fires, earthquakes, and other disasters, prominently displayed at the top of Google Search results. Users will also be able to see details about the disaster on Google Maps, when searching for details about the incident or the affected area. At the same time, Google will also send SOS Alerts to users located in close vicinity to a disaster area.
In Google Search, SOS Alerts will display an overview of the disaster, along with maps, emergency phone numbers and websites (if available), news coverage, translations for essential phrases, and other relevant details. Users who receive notifications because they’re close to the incident will be guided to that same trove of information on the matter. The aforementioned details will also be available in Google Maps, along with real-time updates such as transit updates, road closures, traffic conditions, and others. This way, users can search for information on a disaster in their area and stay informed throughout the whole duration of the event, which should be particularly useful in cases when roads are temporarily closed. SOS Alerts will have a special icon on Maps, along with a card that users can tap for more information.
Google says that it’s not covering everything just yet, which means that not all major crises may trigger SOS alerts. This indicates that Google staff will curate and create the alerts rather than leave automation in charge. In time, the company aims to make SOS Alerts more broadly available, covering more crises. For now, the new feature is rolling out to Google Search on desktop and mobile web, as well as Google Maps on desktop and in the Google Maps app. Donation options will also be displayed along with the other relevant information so that users who want to help those affected by the crisis can get all the details they needed to do so.