Most questions you type into Google's search engine aren’t a matter of life or death. Searches for the nearest Chipotle or Tom Hanks' filmography aren't too pressing, for instance. A search for the nearest emergency room in the middle of an earthquake, however, is far more urgent.
Google announced Tuesday that the company is rolling out a new feature that will distinguish between regular queries and emergency searches during a crisis. Named SOS Alerts, this feature will be included in Google Search results and Google Maps, and will activate during natural disasters or other emergencies.
The tech giant partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Red Cross and local emergency authorities to develop SOS Alerts.
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When a user in an affected area searches on Google, she will find official updates from local authorities and key resources like emergency contact information, breaking news stories and maps of affected areas. For Google Maps searches, an icon will pop up that when tapped provides similar vital information, as well as updates on traffic and road closures.
This is what a Google search result might look like in an area dealing with wildfires: