From The Mercury News: Facebook, Google, Apple offer tools, money to help with Wine Country fires

October 11, 2017, Levi Sumagaysay Bay Area News Group

Northern Californians affected by wildfires are using Silicon Valley tools such as Facebook’s Safety Check, Google search’s SOS Alert and a Google crisis map.

But the tech giants are also helping by donating money to aid and recovery efforts for the Wine Country and beyond, amid devastating wildfires that have claimed 21 lives as of Wednesday. Hundreds of people are missing. Tens of thousands of acres have been burned, and residents in Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties have been displaced, evacuated or have their bags packed, ready to leave their homes when the time comes.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Tuesday that the company is donating $1 million. The money will be divided among the Red Cross California Wildfires Fund, the Community Foundation of Sonoma and the Napa Valley Community Foundation, spokeswoman Aften Meltzer said Wednesday.

Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted Tuesday that the company would help “Bay Area friends and neighbors affected by wildfires.” A spokeswoman said Wednesday that the company is giving $1 million, plus matching employee donations two-for-one.

Google said Google.org and the company’s employees are donating $500,000 to help support those affected by wildfires in Northern and Southern California. The money will go to the American Red Cross and to the Napa and Sonoma Community Foundations, spokeswoman Katherine Williams said Wednesday.

Intel said it is matching its employees’ donations.

Twitter employees have a donations site they have used for the many natural disasters that have occurred this year, a spokeswoman said.

When Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s donation in a post, some commenters thanked him not only for that, but for the usefulness of the social network during times of crisis.

A Facebook user named Hatter T. Habadasher tipped his cap to Facebook’s CEO: “I’ve seen so many people coordinating for grass roots relief efforts through this platform in the last 48 hours. It’s pretty awesome.”

Facebook’s Meltzer said that on Tuesday, the company saw Safety Check activations for 14 separate wildfires in 24 hours. She also mentioned that Facebook’s users are using tools such as Community Help to request and offer assistance, and its fundraising tool to raise money for those who have lost their homes in the fires.

As for Google’s tools, its Tubbs Fire crisis map includes alerts, information about local shelters, air quality and more. A search for “Napa fire” yields an SOS Alert page, which puts information about the Northern California fires in one place, including news stories, official updates and more.

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