Facebook activates ‘Safety Check’ in wake of Hurricane Matthew

Courtesy National Hurricane Center

Facebook’s Safety Check feature, recently used during the Pulse massacre, was an immediate source of information and solace during Hurricane Matthew for UCF students and parents alike.

The safety check system allows people to mark themselves “safe” during crises, which parents like Sue Gentry, 56, appreciate.

“I love it,” Gentry said. “[It’s] nice to know that my Facebook friends are safe and sound. Also, I appreciate letting my far away friends and family know that I’m OK. I’ve been getting so many texts and private messages. This is a good way to let them know.”

Gentry said the feature makes it easy to sort through who is safe without having to send out numerous panicked texts, some of which may never get a response.

Kevin Mora, 21, a digital media major, said he had nothing but positive experiences with the safety feature. Mora said he has taken notice of the calm that the feature gives parents, especially the ones on the UCF Facebook group who have, for the most part, been in a state of non-stop worry since the onset of Matthew.

Mora said the Safety Check provided him with a sense of relief after the Pulse tragedy as many of his friends frequented the club.

Other students like Megan Pershing, a hospitality management major, have a degree of apathy toward the application. She said that the relative tameness of the storm around the Central Florida area caused her not to worry much about her friends’ safety. Pershing said she disabled the notifications for the service because she had already sent text messages and called the people she was concerned about.

For all the features the safety check-in offers, students have noticed its limitations.

Mikeshia Umi, 21, a human communication major at UCF, said Facebook is a “secondary medium” through which she gets information. In the case of an emergency, Umi said she has people texting her their whereabouts and information before she even opens up Facebook.

Umi said there are people who can’t update or haven’t updated their resident information on Facebook, so even though they might be marked as residents in an emergency area, marking themselves as safe could be meaningless if they no longer live in that location.

In regards to the geographical span of the service, Umi said she wishes that Facebook “covered more areas” because she experienced trouble contacting her family in the Caribbean and had to resort to more traditional means.

Despite these “gripes,” Umi said that Facebook is still a mode for information and communication nonetheless.