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Facebook enables businesses, groups to reach out after crises

They can now use the social network's Community Help feature to assist people with finding supplies and services after an emergency.

Organizations and businesses can now post on Facebook's Community Help platform, which lets users respond to crises by providing things like shelter, food and transportation.

During a crisis, companies like Lyft can use Community Help to assist people in finding free transportation or other services.

During a crisis, companies like Lyft can use Community Help to assist people in finding free transportation or other services.  


Before Thursday's update, only individuals could participate in Community Help, which launched last year. People in emergencies can use the feature to ask for help and search for things being offered by others in their area, like baby supplies, water and shelter. Communities are able to use the feature following the activation of Safety Check, a tool for notifying friends that you're safe during a crisis.

Now organizations and businesses can also post in Community Help to aid people in finding supplies, medical services or free transportation, for example, or to link volunteers with organizations that need them.

"Organizations represent an incredible capacity to give," said Asha Sharma, Facebook Social Good product lead. "If you think about transportation, for example, one person can only give so many rides. But Lyft brings an ecosystem to our platform. It's a way to help at scale."

Facebook has activated Safety Check following events such as hurricanes, mass shootings and terrorist attacks. The addition of Community Help lets users take action on the social platform. 

But Facebook has also been called out in the past for not activating Safety Check in certain parts of the world, such as after the 2015 suicide bombings in Beirut. In 2016, the company said it would stop activating Safety Check on its own and would automatically trigger alerts by tracking keywords from users such as "explosion," "earthquake" or "shooting."  

Since Community Help's launch, more than 750,000 posts, comments and messages have appeared in response to over 500 crises, according to Facebook. Some of the events during which it was used most last year include the terrorist attack in Barcelona, the earthquake in Central Mexico and Hurricane Harvey, the company said.

Facebook is initially rolling out Community Help to Pages including Direct Relief, Lyft, Feeding America, Chase, International Medical Corps, The California Department of Forestry and Fire and Save the Children. It'll become available to more organizations and companies in the coming weeks.

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