(Pocket-lint) - Google has announced that it will soon be rolling out new visual tools and alerts in Google Maps to better visualise natural disasters, and help you both avoid and report them.
Currently, Google offers SOS alerts within Maps in specific natural disaster-prone locations, but, with the latest new features, the service has become a lot more visual and more useful.
From a visual standpoint, the first major change offers hurricane forecast cones, earthquake shake maps and flood forecasts.
With these in place, you'll be able to get a much better view of any hurricane, earthquake or flood that's in your area.
With hurricanes, for instance, you'll get a notification card in Google Maps that appears automatically when there's a hurricane heading in the direction of your location.
Tap on the card, and you'll see a hurricane forecast cone, and this shows the prediction of the storm's trajectory, as well as timings for when it's likely to hit specific cities or areas. This way, you can plan how and when you need to prepare.
Similarly, when an earthquake strikes, you can tap on the crisis card which then shows you a visualisation of the earthquake, showing you the epicentre and size, as well as using colour coding to help you see how intense the earthquake is.
One other tool, designed specifically for India - where nearly a fifth of all the world's flood-related deaths occur - helps you plan around flooding disasters. Maps will show where flooding is likely to happen and how severe it is.
Even if you're not in an area directly affected by a natural disaster, you can still search on Google for the related terms.
For instance, Google Search "Hurricane Hector" (or whatever the name is) and you'll see an SOS alert, the same visual overview as Google Maps, and even offer up the ability to donate to relevant causes.
Perhaps more impressive than all of this is the real-time navigation warnings in Google Maps that kicks in during a disaster, when you're using turn-by-turn navigation in the app.
If you're heading towards the path of a hurricane - for example - Google Maps will not only alert you clearly on the screen, but also offer its best route to avoid the disaster as much as possible.
These new natural disaster alerts will start rolling out over the next few weeks. Hurricane forecast cones will be available in the US, as well as Mexico and the Caribbean plus Western Europe and many countries in East Asia on desktop, mobile apps and on the web.
Flood forecasts are exclusive to India for the time being, while earthquake shakemaps and navigation warnings will both be global on Android and iOS apps.