When you’re in the midst of a crisis, your internet search priorities are clearly different than usual: am I in danger? Where can I go for safety? And who do I talk to for help? Google clearly recognizes this, as it’s rolling out SOS Alerts in both its web search results and in Maps. Look for a relevant search term or location and you’ll get official updates, contact information, a map of the affected area, top stories and translations for useful phrases. If you’re browsing the Maps app, you’ll see an icon on the map that you can tap to get vital info. And if you’re in a perilous location, you may get a notification pointing you to this help.
You don’t have to be in harm’s way for these alerts to be useful. You’ll still get an overview of the situation, and there are opportunities to donate if you want to help.
This isn’t the first time Google has incorporated public alerts into its search tools, but the SOS Alerts reflect the mounting importance of the internet in emergency situations. Even a few years ago, you might have turned to radio or TV to get crucial info. Now, the internet may be the first place you go — even in situations where you’re facing very real danger. Google still can’t replace government agencies in a crisis, but it can point you in the right direction.