Facebook revealed yesterday that it is rolling out a new service over the next few days that aims to put people affected by the UK floods in touch with registered volunteers that have signed up on www.floodvolunteers.co.uk.
The initiative was overshadowed by the announcement yesterday that Facebook is buying instant messaging firm Whatsapp for a cool $16 billion (£11.4 billion).
From today however, when users living in flood-affected areas log into Facebook via mobile or desktop, they will greeted with a flood message at the top of their homepage asking: "Affected by the UK floods? Flood Volunteers can connect you with people in your local area who can help.”
The message will link directly through to the Flood Volunteers website where those affected by the floods can match their needs to the help available from volunteers – from sandbag moving and pet care through to 4x4 driving.
The service will draw on Facebook’s 33 million monthly UK users to get support to those in need of help by using publicly available flood data from the Environment Agency and targeting the message at people in badly effected areas.
It will be implemented gradually over the next few days to ensure that Flood Volunteers can manage the likely surge in traffic and demand.
The roll out comes after Tech City UK held a hackathon last Sunday where over 200 developers, including engineers from Facebook, were tasked with creating digital solutions to help those affected by the floods.
Facebook engineer Alec Muffett said: "The FloodHack event last Sunday brought together people to innovate, their shared goal being to connect people - families, homes and businesses – whose lives have been impacted by flooding, with people and organisations who can help.
"Since Facebook reaches so many people in the affected areas, my colleague Pieter and I thought a newsfeed message to direct people to the Flood Volunteer website would be a simple way to help get help to people in need. We are excited that we've been able to roll it out so quickly."
Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech City UK, said: “It’s wonderful news that Tech City UK’s FloodHack inspired the developer community to come together – and that engineers at Facebook have gone on to develop such a practical, effective solution.
"By combining data released by the Government with the scale and reach of Facebook, those in the most flood-threatened areas will be made aware of the support offered by www.floodvolunteers.co.uk. We’re delighted that Facebook participated in Sunday’s FloodHack and welcome their contributions to help those in need.”