Google is extending and enhancing the SOS functionality built into Search and Maps to better assist Canadians when the next major natural disaster occurs, the company announced on Thursday morning.
Google first launched SOS Alerts in Canada in 2017. At the time, the primary goal of the functionality, at least in Canada, was aimed at assisting individuals in the event of a major wildfire.
Starting today, however, the company plans to also issue SOS alerts when earthquakes and hurricanes occur. Moreover, the search giant says it’s making the entire feature more visual. In the future, Google hopes to use the same functionality to help Canadians when major floods happen.
As before, Search and Maps SOS Alerts are designed to provide individuals with potentially life-saving information when a natural disaster occurs. In the event of a wildfire, earthquake or hurricane, Maps and Search will issue a special alert that highlights what’s happening, pushes relevant news stories and websites, as well as displays information like emergency phone numbers and social media updates from local authorities.
As part of today’s update, Maps and Search will provide people with visualizations of the disaster. In the case of an earthquake, for instance, Google will share a shakemap that details the epicentre and magnitude of the disaster. The company’s goal here is to allow individuals to quickly and easily assess the extent and scope of an earthquake. Even if a person isn’t in the immediate area a natural disaster, they’ll be able to access the related SOS alert by conducting a Google Search. In this instance, they’ll see additional information, including donation links.
In situations where a person is driving and an earthquake or hurricane occurs, Maps will alert the individual and notify them if the route they’re following is experiencing disruptions. If possible, the app will also attempt to route the user away from the disrupted area.
Additionally, individuals can use the alert functionality to submit crowdsourced crowd reports. Lastly, the enhanced SOS functionality allows one to quickly share their location with family members and loved ones.
Google says it will start rolling out earthquake shakemaps to Maps in the “coming weeks” on Android, iOS, desktop and mobile web.