How the City of Portland and Airbnb are working together to prepare for natural disasters

Flooding in Louisiana. An earthquake in Italy. Wildfires in California.

Airbnb hosts have opened their doors to people displaced in these recent disasters.

Here in Portland, members of Portland’s Airbnb community are learning how to prepare themselves, their families, their homes and the community for potential disasters.

In a recent training session, Portland Bureau of Emergency Management NET Program Specialist Jeremy Van Keuren spoke with Airbnb hosts and employees about possible natural and manmade disasters facing the northwest.

He walked Airbnb hosts and employees through developing an emergency preparedness plan and an emergency preparedness kit for their families and their guests. They also discussed steps they can take now to mitigate the impact of potential disasters, like securing a water heater with straps so it doesn’t fall during an earthquake.

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This training is part of our partnership with the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, a unique collaboration designed to strengthen Portland’s ability to respond to an emergency.

As part of the agreement, signed in 2014, Airbnb will work with the city before, during, and after disasters to leverage the Airbnb community’s resources to make the community more resilient.

“When people are displaced during a disaster, there’s little they need more than a safe place to stay. That’s why PBEM and Airbnb have joined forces to coordinate shelter opportunities for Portlanders and our out-of-town guests when disaster strikes,” said Carmen Merlo, director of the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management. “But taking on the role of host comes with a responsibility to prepare for rough days. That’s why we’re so proud of the hosts who are taking steps towards emergency preparedness — They’re demonstrating a commitment to their families, their guests, and the community.”

Airbnb has a dozen collaborative arrangements with local and regional governments around the world, including Victoria, Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand, as well as San Francisco, California.

“Opening doors to people who need a place to stay is in the DNA of the Airbnb community,” said Kellie Bentz, Head of Global Disaster Response & Relief for Airbnb. “When Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast, 1,400 Airbnb hosts in New York opened doors and cooked meals for those left stranded. We were inspired by these stories to build a disaster response initiative with our community.”

As part of our partnership with PBEM, Airbnb helps identify hosts who are willing to open their homes and provide free housing for those who are displaced by disaster and relief workers who are in the area to help with the response.

Airbnb activates mobile and web technology to notify both hosts and guests about significant hazardous events in their area. Those impacted by a disaster, as well as emergency responders, can then work directly with willing hosts to find temporary housing.

PBEM can also help connect people in need with the Airbnb resource following a disaster.