Partnering with the city of San Jose to improve emergency preparedness

During times of crisis and disaster, Airbnb has partnered with government agencies and regional disaster relief organizations to connect Airbnb hosts with evacuees and emergency responders, free of charge. This idea took form in 2012, amidst the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, when thousands of individuals and families were displaced by the catastrophic disaster.

When Hurricane Sandy struck, an Airbnb host in New York reached out to us, asking if she could open her doors for free to those who needed a place to stay. This idea — members of our community opening their doors for free to those in need — served as the catalyst to what would be become a global program, known as Open Homes, connecting those who have been displaced to those with extra space. To date, our host community has donated nearly 17,000 nights around the world.

As the Open Homes program grows and evolves, we’ve learned that we can do more than just support cities during times of crisis; we can support them even before a disaster occurs.

Today, at the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Annual Meeting in Boston, Airbnb’s Head of Disaster Response and Relief, Kellie Bentz, will announce a first of its kind partnership with City of San Jose to do just that. In the coming months, Airbnb hosts and other interested members of the community can sign up to lend their space in advance of a disaster. This will allow our community to respond faster, more efficiently, and more effectively.

“When disaster strikes, one of our greatest needs, and challenges, is to ensure that every displaced resident has a safe place to stay,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo. “We’re thankful for our new partnership with Airbnb, which offers a great example of how government can leverage innovation to add another tool to our disaster response toolbox.”

In addition, the pilot will include:

  • In-person preparedness trainings and recruitment events
  • A three-pronged digital campaign which includes paid media, online communications, and email education to the community
  • The development of a new operational protocol for communications with emergency management teams when hosts are needed

After we’ve launched this pilot in San Jose, CA, we will work to identify additional cities to join the pilot program as well.

As this first of its kind pilot launches, we look forward to the continued evolution of our program so that hosts and community members interested in assisting during times of need have a platform to do so. This is an important step, and we are thrilled to partner with the City of San Jose on this new initiative.