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Google adds local safety alerts to search results

A partnership between Google and tech startup Nixle will allow safety notifications from local authorities to appear at the top of search results.

Alerts from police, firefighters, and other authorities should soon start popping up in your Google search results.

The new initiative comes courtesy of a team-up between Google and Nixle, a San Francisco-based startup.

Nixle allows people to sign up to receive crime alerts, missing person notifications, and other updates from local police and fire departments. The alerts are sent via e-mail or text message to a mobile phone.

Google has tapped Nixle as the first partner to work with the Google Crisis Response Team to expand those safety alerts beyond just e-mail and mobile phones. Local public safety agencies can now post alerts so they appear at the top of Google search results, on Google Maps, and even on Android devices through the Google Now app.

Here's an example from Google on how the system would work:

Upper Darby Police [located in Pennsylvania], for example, send out a text or e-mail notification to their residents alerting them to a missing child, an escaped convict, or a hurricane bearing down. In addition to Nixle subscribers receiving this alert, anyone who searches "Upper Darby weather" or other related keywords on Google (or happens to be in Upper Darby and searches "hurricane" for example) will see the Nixle alert prominently displayed at the top of search results, complete with clickable links for further info and actions to be taken. It will also be layered over Google Maps, and will pop-up on Android phones through Google Now.

Adding local alerts to search results can clearly benefit authorities as well as residents.

"This gives everyone from small-town cops to large fire, sheriff, and [emergency management] departments (no matter what their budget) access to post timely and location-relevant public safety information on Google," a Google spokesperson said in a statement, "thereby increasing their reach by hundreds of millions."

Public safety agencies can learn more about the new service and sign up for it through the Google and Nixle partnership page.