Search engines are an important part of this modern American life. Up to 93% of all Internet experiences begin with the use of a search engine. And now, to protect the 70% of Americans who are online daily, Google has added an important new feature to its products.

Google’s new SOS Alerts are now a new part of Google’s Search app on Android and iOS. The alerts, which appear at the top of both Google Search as well as Google Maps, notifies the user of any information regarding emergencies in the area such as terrorist attacks, car accidents, active shooters, and more.

“Swiping up on the tab will show such information as emergency phone numbers, websites, and translations of useful phrases,” reports Digital Trends. “You’ll see official alerts and tweets from first responders, too…”

Google’s new feature resembles that of Facebook’s own emergency notifications. However, while Facebook has received criticism for the number of notifications it sends its users, Google’s SOS Alerts are informational and only affect users in a particular geographic location. So far, the new Google feature has yet to generate much negative feedback.
According to The Next Web, Google’s SOS Alerts operate in real time to keep users up to date with the latest emergencies as a means of keeping people safe as well as allowing others to help. The app is now the fourth in Google’s line of safety technology. Prior to SOS Alerts, the multinational tech company also developed Public Alerts, Crisis Map, and Person Finder.

Each app comes with its own uses, some more unexpected than others. For instance, Person Finder can assist a user in locating their friend or family member in a busy area should they become separated. It also assisted those looking for their missing loved ones in the aftermath of a hurricane in the Philippines.

“As we’ve developed our crisis response products,” said Yossi Matias, vice president of Google’s engineering department, in a blog post, “we’ve worked closely with organisations and government agencies that are on the front lines of relief efforts, including the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Philippines Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration and many others.”

Google will launch its SOS Alerts in 12 countries including the United States, Australia, the Philippines, Japan, and Canada. European countries and the United Kingdom have yet to become secure partners, according to the BBC, although users in those areas will still be able to access limited emergency information. The alerts will become more detailed for users when their respective governing bodies have confirmed Google’s security.