Facebook users looking to offer or request help after a natural disaster can now also do so via WhatsApp as Facebook expands its crisis response tool to the app.
Crisis Response is one of Facebook’s great community tools. It not only let people mark themselves as safe when in a region where a natural disaster occurred, but it also helps people get in touch, whether it is to offer or request help.
Until now, however, replies to requests on Facebook’s Crisis Response pages could only be sent via Facebook Messenger.
But with the fast growth and omnipresence of WhatsApp in some markets – the app counts 400 million users in India, its biggest market, 90% of smartphone users in India, Brazil, and Argentina use WhatsApp – it makes sense for WhatsApp to join Messenger as a platform to communicate in times of crisis.
Emily Dalton Smith, head of social impact product at Facebook, explained: “We heard from people all over the world who wanted to see this happen.” Dalton also noted that using WhatsApp for its Crisis Response tool would be especially beneficial in areas with poor connectivity, where WhatsApp might be the only accessible messaging tool.
Facebook also expanded its disaster maps so they’re accessible to some state and local emergency responders, thereby improving real-time responses to crises, according to Facebook officials.
New features will also allow for photo and video sharing within the Crisis Response center on Facebook, letting individuals share first-hand accounts of road closures, building collapses, floods or other events, according to Dalton Smith.