September 28, 2015

Visualizing Crisis Relief in Nepal

By: Alex Schultz

During times of crisis, people come together on Facebook to support one another. When the earthquake struck Nepal, people turned to Facebook to find out if their loved ones were safe. Through Safety Check, a tool that allows people to quickly let people know they’re safe (built originally by the engineers in Japan during the 2011 earthquake then turned into an amazing product by Peter and Sharon as a hackathon/part-time project), 8.5 million people were able to reach out to more than 150 million friends and loved ones.

People also turned to Facebook to give. The global Facebook community donated more than $17 million (including $2 million from Facebook, Inc.) in one week to support those affected by the earthquake (again the donations tool started as a hackathon project from a passionate team, this time in payments, around Typhoon Haiyan in 2013).

Despite living my life in large numbers I still find it really hard to internalize them. To help with that, we visualized them on a map of the world. Specifically, we used anonymous data aggregated at the city-level to show:

  • People marked safe in cities within a 500km radius of where the first earthquake struck in April.
  • People who received notifications that their loved one were safe.
  • The locations of donors around the world.

I love this project so much because it took the awesome actions that the community took through Facebook and through creating a product (via a Hackathon and a direct need in Japan) our teams made those actions easier. We have now built these into better, more stable, more reliable solutions thanks to the awesome social good engineering team (and indeed just launched safety check again during the recent Chilean earthquake where >3Million people were marked safe and >100MM were notified of this. There is much more to do here and much more to do to amplify the social good happening already through the site. This visualization shows what it looks like when the community on Facebook and the product teams here come together to do the most good. I am hopeful and inspired that we can keep finding ways to do more good, together.