Using Airbnb or VRBO to find and stay in a friendly stranger’s home is cheaper and often more fun than getting a hotel room somewhere. After Hurricane Sandy — back when Airbnb was still legal in New York — it also turned out to be an easy ad hoc way to match up displaced people with homes that had room to host them. Now, inspired by that experience, Airbnb is using its peer-to-peer housing platform to prepare for future disasters.

People with rooms listed can now opt in to donate a room in the case of a natural disaster, so displaced locals have somewhere to go. Writes Fast Company:

The peer-to-peer lodging platform partnered with New York City and worked quickly in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy last fall to allow existing hosts and others to offer space to displaced people in the New York/New Jersey area, free of any fees. Learning from that experience, Airbnb consulted with Ideo and San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management to build a new tool that can be activated in a scant 30 minutes anywhere in the world. They will contact existing hosts in the area to see if they can help, and provide verification, insurance protections, and a crucial platform for information exchange for those offering to help and those who need a place to stay.

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So far, 1,400 people have opted in to Airbnb’s disaster response platform. If your heartstrings need a little tug, watch the company’s video about members sharing space after Sandy. “We just made sure everybody was safe, everybody was comfortable, and we just made cookies, chili, and margaritas,” says a Brooklyn resident named Evelyn:


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