Facebook is expanding its “local alerts” feature to help governments, police and health authorities reach people in times of crisis and help keep communities safe.
Local alerts is designed to help authorities transmit urgent information to the public during emergencies, such as coronavirus outbreaks and lockdowns, extreme weather events and missing person searches.
When authorities send a local alert, Facebook will send a notification to page followers located in the affected area and mark the post as an alert to make it stand out in News Feed.
“We are very pleased to be expanding local alerts access to all eligible health, police and government state and territory pages in Australia,” Facebook Australia’s head of public policy Josh Machin says.
The company tested local alerts, which was rolled out in Australia late last year, with all state and territory fire and emergency service agencies in an earlier evaluation.
“Since the rollout of this feature six months ago to Australian fire and emergency services, we’ve seen local alerts used to provide critical and real-time information during bushfire, cyclone and flood emergency situations,” Josh adds.
Facebook intends authorities to use Local Alerts to rapidly advise communities about, for example, the need to wear face masks, about sudden travel restrictions or lockdowns and to keep information flowing during fast-moving changes or developments.
The global digital giant says Australia is the second country in the world to have access to the local alerts tool.
It also says posts marked as “local alerts” in the United States were viewed three-and-a-half times more often than typical Facebook posts by public agencies.
Josh says Facebook hopes local alerts will become a regular tool in community crisis management: “We hope this feature will be another important communication tool for health, police and central government agencies to share updates to people about critical events happening in their local area”.
Western Australia Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm says his service has been using Local Alerts during incidents to quickly inform communities about imminent danger.
“The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) digital communications team has found the tool extremely effective in notifying people online about bushfire, cyclone and flood emergencies in most instances reaching hundreds of thousands of people within a few hours,” he says.
“These were often people who would otherwise have had a delay in knowing the danger they were in. DFES is proud to be leading the way in emergency digital communications in Australia and encourages other eligible agencies to make use of this tool.”
The Local Alerts tool has been extended to all state and territory health services, police and government services.