State fire services will be able to directly notify Facebook users about bushfires, floods and emergency situations by the end of the year under an expansion of the platform’s Local Alerts feature announced today.

State governments and first responders use Facebook Local Alerts to send notifications to followers of eligible pages and make posts stand out in newsfeeds. Australia will be the just the second country to expand the tool to fire and emergency services.

Local Alerts will be available to state fire responders by the end of the year, and to other eligible state and local government departments and services throughout 2021.

To receive the alerts users need to be following an eligible Page and Facebook is recommending its users follow  the Pages of the state fire services available in their community.

Image: Supplied.

Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, Head of Resilience NSW, who led the recovery of the bushfires last summer as Head of NSW Rural Fire Service said the popular platform had been a valuable tool during the fires.

“We were using social media and Facebook as an information-gathering tool. It all helped build our intelligence and ratify our understanding of where things were up to. We learnt extraordinarily through that period that the more we provided, the more people wanted to know, and the more people were happy to share.”

During the 2019-20 Black Summer fires over 100 bushfire related Facebook Groups were created and tens of thousands of Australians used a Safety Check feature, according to Facebook.

“Throughout the bushfires, we saw Australians coming to digital platforms like Facebook and Instagram to find information, connect with one another and to offer support and assistance to those who had been impacted,” said Alisha Elliott, head of policy programs, Facebook Australia and New Zealand.

“Building on existing tools to support first responders, such as Safety Check and Disaster Maps, we continually seek feedback about how we can improve our tools to support communities in times of crisis. We’re thrilled to be the second country globally to expand Local Alerts and provide local fire authorities and emergency services with another avenue to relay vital information needed in affected areas. 

“As we approach another tough summer, Facebook will continue to support communities and keep them connected.”

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