Parisians use ‘Safety Check’, ‘#PorteOuverte’ to connect with family, friends and strangers

WASHINGTON– French president Francois Hollande declared a national state of emergency on Friday night after several violent attacks in Paris left at least 120 dead. The nation’s borders have been sealed, and the identities of the victims have yet to be released. As police officers, emergency responders and Red Cross workers provide aid and comfort to survivors, Parisians are turning to social media as a way of finding friends and family in the aftermath of the attacks.

Facebook has turned on its “Safety Check” feature to help people keep track of their friends and family members. Safety Check was also used during the earthquakes in Nepal and Chile this year. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced the tool in 2014. He says the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan provided inspiration for the system.

“Over the last few years there have been many disasters and crises where people have turned to the Internet for help,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “Safety Check is our way of helping our community during natural disasters and gives you an easy and simple way to say you’re safe and check on all your friends and family in one place.”

Facebook users who have “Paris, France” set as their current location were sent a notification Friday evening asking if they were in the affected area, and if they were safe. By marking themselves as “safe,” they were able to send notifications to all people on their Facebook friends lists.

If you have friends in Paris, head to the Safety Check page on Facebook for a list of friends in the area, and whether they’ve been marked safe yet or not.

Zuckerberg expressed solidarity with those affected by the attacks in Paris tonight in a Facebook post announcing the “Paris Terror Attacks” Safety Check. “My thoughts are with everyone in Paris tonight,” he wrote, “violence like this has no place in any city or country in the world.”

Parisians are also using Twitter as a way to reach out and help others. People are opening their homes to those seeking shelter in the city by using the hashtag “#PorteOuverte,” or “open door.”

Others outside the city are using the hashtag as a way to express solidarity with those affected by the attacks. For travelers in other parts of the world, stranded because of France’s tightened borders, hashtags like #StrandedinUS and #StrandedinCanada may lead them to a place to stay for the night. Celebrities, politicians, athletes and everyday Twitter users around the world are expressing solidarity with France and marveling at the kindness of strangers.

Buildings and monuments worldwide are turning blue, white and red in support of the French capital. The Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the One World Trade Center in New York are among those lit up in solidarity with France.

Locally, the Washington Capitals paid tribute before their match against the Calgary flames.

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