Over the past several years, Google has introduced new features to provide important safety information during emergency events and natural disasters. Ahead of Hurricane Florence, Google has enabled an SOS Alert for those directly impacted by the Atlantic storm.
For Hurricane Florence, CEO Sundar Pichai noted last night that the feature was activated for users in the storm’s path. Google has also launched a Crisis Map with information about evacuation routes, road closures, and shelter information sourced from Waze.
We look at a number of factors, such as internet connectivity in the affected area, the availability of official content from governments and other authoritative organizations, and the impact on the ground. SOS Alerts are typically available in the primary languages of the affected area, as well as English.
Introduced last year, SOS Alerts are a key part of the company’s Crisis Response offerings. In Google Search, looking up the incident or location will feature a bright red banner at the top of the page.
It includes maps, top stories, and local information, including emergency phone numbers and websites. For those in the affected area, Google will directly send a notification to mobile device with a link to this information.
— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) September 13, 2018
Those not in the crisis area can search to find an SOS Alert and other information, though Google notes that it might surface links to donate and help instead of emergency contacts. Data is sourced from government agencies, first responders, and NGOs, as well as various products like Google News and Maps.
On Google Maps, SOS Alerts appear at the bottom of the screen and on the map with a special icon. Tapping surfaces a card with information like emergency resources, hotline numbers, and websites. When appropriate, it will also show traffic and transit updates, road closures, and other real-time information.