There's a growing trend of social media being used in the aftermath of natural disasters for information sharing—but Facebook is now working to formalize it. It's launched a service which allows people to register themselves as safe when large-scale disasters occur.

The new feature, called Safety Check, sends users a push notification if a natural disaster happens in the area they list as their current location. It asks them if they're OK, and they can either check in as being safe or tell Facebook they're not actually in the region. Other users can see a list of their Facebook friends in the region, and whether they're registered themselves as being safe or not. Facebook will work with local authorities and experts to figure out what counts as a disaster, on a case-by-case basis.

It's a simple tool, but an effective one—far more efficient than relying on status updates to ascertain that a long list of people are safe. For those with privacy concerns, it's good to see that only friends will see the safety updates, too. Let's just hope the feature doesn't have to be used very often. [Facebook]