Facebook expands Local Alerts tool

Josh Machin, Head of Public Policy (Australia) – June 29, 2021

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact communities across Australia, we want to continue to help local governments, police and emergency services communicate time-sensitive and need-to-know information to people on Facebook.

People tell us it is important to receive timely, local updates in situations that directly affect them or that require them to take action, such as severe emergency weather warnings or major road closures. So today, we are thrilled to announce the expansion of our Local Alerts product to all eligible state and territory health, police and lead central government Pages.

This expansion will help government agencies connect with communities to find missing persons, share information on COVID-19 outbreaks or ‘hotspots’ and provide critical updates during disasters or significant hazards. For example, with COVID-19 outbreaks continuing to occur in different parts of the country, Local Alerts could be used to advise communities about updated case locations, travel restrictions or lockdown areas situations develop and evolve.

Since the rollout of this feature six months ago to Australian fire and emergency services, we’ve seen Local Alerts used to provide critical and real-time information during bushfire, cyclone and flood emergency situations. We hope this feature will become another important communication tool for health, police and central government agencies to share updates to people about critical events happening in their local area.

The Local Alerts feature is designed to help authorities communicate urgent, need-to-know or actionable information to communities in emergencies as well as less critical situations where timely information is valuable. When authorities with access to the product mark posts as Local Alerts, Facebook will send a notification to Page followers located  in the affected area, and mark the post as an alert to make it stand out in News Feed. 

A recent analysis in the US found that Page posts marked as Local Alerts by their administrators gained over 250% more views on average than regular Page posts. We hope that today’s expansion will help even more organisations to communicate timely information to people on Facebook. 

Katarina Carroll APM, QLD Police Commissioner said:

“The QPS welcomes Facebook’s expansion of the Local Alerts tool to include state and territory police. We have successfully used social media platforms to enhance our engagement with local communities and this additional capability will help increase our reach for important community safety messaging. We look forward to adding the Local Alerts product to our digital communications toolkit, particularly to issue real-time alerts, warnings and urgent messaging to our community during times of emergency and critical incidents.”

Darren Klemm AFSM, WA Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner, said:

“The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) has strategically been using Facebook’s Local Alert tool during incidents to quickly inform communities about imminent danger and how to stay safe. Our Digital Communications Team has found the tool extremely effective in notifying people online about bushfire, cyclone and flood emergencies – in most instances reaching hundreds of thousands of people within a few hours. These were often people that would otherwise have had a delay in knowing the danger they were in. DFES is proud to be leading the way in emergency digital communications in Australia and encourages other eligible agencies to make use of this tool.”

We will continue to build on existing tools to support first responders, emergency services and government agencies, to seek their feedback about how we can improve our tools to support them in providing critical updates to local communities. This is just the latest update in a long list of products and initiatives that Facebook has made available to support the provision of authoritative, credible information during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To find more information about Facebook’s Local Alerts feature, visit our Facebook Help Centre.

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