The devastation hitting the Texas and Louisiana coast is unreal. At one point in time, up to 13 million people were under flood watches or warnings. The storm has dumped over 25 inches of rain in Houston, and meteorologists say that it is not done yet with many believing America’s fourth largest city will get 50 inches of rain before Harvey finally leaves them alone. If it does, it will be the most rainfall ever from an Atlantic tropical storm.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says that up to 450,000 people need assistance. First responders in the Houston area had already received more than 2,000 calls from people needing rescuing. Almost 96 hours after the storm made landfall on August 25, 2017, there were still over 185 people waiting for rescue.
While much of the focus has been on Houston, the entire Gulf coast has been affected by this powerful storm. Neighbors have been helping neighbors with many people going into rescue others using their equipment. One church in the severely affected community of League City, Texas, literally invited people to come to their building even though all they had to offer was a roof. Meanwhile, in nearby Dickerson, Texas, nursing home residents sat in water waist deep until rescued by the National Guard and private individuals.
Airbnb Owners’ Response
One thing that almost all Airbnb owners can agree on is that they have a strong desire to help. Therefore, Airbnb has activated its disaster relief system. In the days leading up to the hurricane, Airbnb sent an email allowing all participants in Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas to open their homes for free. To do their part, Airbnb has waived their service fee on all booking from evacuees from August 23 to September 1. Hosts get coverage by the host guarantee.
Airbnb Preparation for Disaster
Airbnb’s preparation for this day, however, did not start as Texas Governor Greg Abbott, FEMA and others warned of the impending catastrophe. Planning for this day began in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy. At that time, Airbnb hosts in New York took it upon themselves to open their rooms that were not booked. Since then, Airbnb has implemented a program allowing hosts in 10 United States cities to become trained by the American Red Cross in disaster preparedness. Then, each host has the option to open their homes to friends and neighbors so that they could prepare as well.
Airbnb Disaster Preparedness Coordinator
Airbnb now has a disaster preparedness coordinator. This person lived through Katrina, so she understands what many of the evacuees are facing. She has coordinated with FEMA to open host homes to evacuees and first responders. In all, 3,590 nights have been donated through Airbnb’s emergency disaster program with over 3,100 homes opened.
FEMA Uses Airbnb
Airbnb has taken it even a step further by partnering with FEMA ahead of time. Now, FEMA can use Airbnb to locate places for their emergency workers to stay allowing them to get to work at a faster rate. In the past, FEMA employees were often held back because they could not find a place to stay in a disaster area. Therefore, they had to wait until mobile units landed in the disaster area.
List Your Property for Evacuees on Airbnb
This time, Airbnb has taken an additional measure because of the size of this disaster. They are now allowing homeowners to open their homes to evacuees just by listing their property on their site. The owner just lists some basic details of what they have available, and the site does the rest.
Airbnb Owners Encouraged to Give Their Miles
While only Airbnb properties in Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin can list their homes for free, all Airbnb property owners and Airbnb property management programs can give in this way. Airbnb allows owners and companies to donate their airline miles through the Airlink program. The program allows first responders to travel to the affected area without having to worry about the cost of their tickets.
Our thoughts go out to all those in the affected area and we hope everyone is united with their families safely.