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Google SOS Alerts added to search results and maps


Google has begun rounding up information about unfolding natural disasters, terrorism and other crises within its Search and Maps tools.
Visitors will be shown updates from authorities, news articles, emergency telephone numbers and other useful information in a single place.
The SOS Alerts facility can also be set to trigger mobile notifications to those close to affected locations.
However, Google is still seeking partners to improve the service.
The initiative builds on earlier emergency response efforts from the US companies, including its Person Finder and Crisis Map tools.
But this time, rather than requiring users to go to special sections of its site, SOS Alerts attempts to bring information about incidents directly into Google's most used services.
Foreign phrases
When activated, the Maps tool reveals, among other things, areas that should be avoided, which roads have been closed and where users can seek refuge.

Data gathered from the company's crowdsourced Waze mapping platform also makes it possible to see where traffic jams, accidents and other problems have been reported by the public.
The level of detail shown inside the Search tool depends on whether the person carrying out the query is close to the incident.
If nearby, they are presented with links to official alerts, tweets from first responders, and useful short phrases in local language.
Those searching from afar are shown less information, but they may also be told to clean up the operations, if Google believes it to be appropriate.
"In situations of crisis, the need for information is crucial," said Yossi Matias, the company's vice president of engineering, told the BBC.
"People need to know what's going on - anything that could be related to their safety, or any action they should be taking."
He added that Google had set up a dedicated team to decide which events warranted an SOS Alert, but declined to reveal how many people had been assigned to it.

Facebook - which offers a parallel service to let members in the vicinity of a disaster tell friends they are safe - has been criticized for activating it under "inappropriate" circumstances.
Google has joined forces with government bodies, Red Cross and various weather-forecasting organizations to help SOS Alerts in 12 countries. They include local organizations in the US, Japan, the Philippines, Australia and Canada.
But it has yet to secure partners in the UK and other European nations.
SOS Alerts will still cover events there, but will contain less information as a consequence until information-sharing arrangements are struck.
Omar Abou-Samra from the International Federation of Red Cross told the BBC.
"Designed to be shared in tandem with public alerts, the service provides localized information that people can immediately act on to protect themselves and their families."


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