Airbnb is teaming up with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to strengthen its program that lets victims of hurricanes, earthquakes and other disasters stay at host homes for free.
On Monday, the online home rental service will send 100,000 hosts in Florida, Louisiana and other states tips from FEMA's Ready campaign on how to prepare for hurricane season. During a disaster, FEMA will also provide Airbnb with real-time information so that the company can better figure out where its help is needed. For example, Airbnb can email hosts in specific neighborhoods to let them know shelter is needed in that area. Hosts can then go to the Airbnb's site or app and volunteer to take in victims or rescue workers for free.
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In recent years, technology companies have been using their platforms to help during disasters. Last year, social media company Facebook Inc. launched Safety Check, a way to quickly let friends and family members know that they are safe during a nearby disaster. And earlier this year, FEMA signed an agreement with Google Inc., Microsoft Inc. and other companies to help train volunteers to restore internet and phone connections during a disaster.
Airbnb's program was born out of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, when hosts in New York opened their homes to victims and rescue workers. The next year Airbnb formalized its program, making it easier for its hosts to offer their homes for free. Since then, hosts have volunteered their homes during floods in Croatia, fires in San Diego and ice storms in Atlanta and Toronto.
Founded in 2008, Airbnb says it has more than 1.2 million listings on it site in more than 34,000 cities around the world.