Google has added a new SOS alert feature to Search and Maps. The feature was announced by the company through a blogpost on Tuesday. During a crisis, SOS alerts will be displayed at the top of Google search results when a user is looking up that particular place or area. For instance, if you search for the recent British Columbia Wildfires, you will see a red SOS alert right at the top of the search results.
Not only can users view the SOS alert, Google will also provide information cards with the latest updates on the ongoing disaster, along with disaster relief contact details and emergency numbers. Through the SOS feature, Google will also collect and present detailed information on affected areas, road closures, shelters and news updates through Twitter.
Apart from Search, Google’s SOS alerts have been integrated with the Google Maps app on mobile. A specific SOS icon will be displayed on the map, clicking which will bring up an information card on the disaster. The Map will also display updates on route closures, diversions, traffic and more.
If users find themselves close to the disaster affected area, Google will send them notifications alerting them of the ongoing situation. The notification will direct users towards the above mentioned disaster updates and info.
Google says that the company is working closely with governments and crisis management organisations to bring this information to its users. To name a few, Google has currently partnered with the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration and many others. Google SOS alerts are somewhat similar to Facebook’s Safety Check, which allows users of the social media network to mark themselves safe during a natural or man-made disaster.
It is not yet clear if Google’s SOS alerts work in India. While searching for the British Columbia wildfires did pull up the SOS alert, a search for ongoing disasters in India did not yield an SOS response. We tried to search for the ongoing Gujarat rain lashes, but no SOS alert popped up for a disaster which has now claimed more than 80 lives and displaced around 25000 people. It is possible Google is still in the process of expanding the reach of the feature globally.