Hurricane season is an annual event that lasts from May to November, but it often passes without incident. This year, however, people are gearing up for one of the biggest storms to hit the United States in a decade, and a prominent tech company is stepping up to help those affected get shelter if they need it. Airbnb is helping Hurricane Harvey victims find refuge, flexing its arm of social responsibility during a natural disaster.
Hurricane evacuees will have their service fees waived between Aug. 23 and Sept. 1, meaning Airbnb won't profit off of people trying to find shelter. In addition, the site has also listed hundreds of homeowners in San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas who want to house hurricane victims for free. If you need to find a place to stay or you want to offer your home for others, you can register with the website here.
This isn't the first time that Airbnb has helped people after a disaster — last summer, the earthquakes in Italy displaced people for weeks, but Airbnb connected the homeless with places to stay for free. "Collaborating with regional disaster relief organizations in advance of an event allows us to reach a broader audience and help more people during the actual event," the company said in a statement on its website. "That is why we are pleased to partner with local government agencies and disaster relief organizations to help the Airbnb community and the cities prepare for local emergencies."
The problem now is that there might not be time for people to get to safe zones. Inland flood warnings extend hundreds of miles from the coast, as far as San Antonio, and it could take too long to get out of the affected areas. Plus, heavy rains have already started in the Houston area and other coastal cities, and it could be too dangerous to drive.
Harvey may be the first Category 3 hurricane to hit the United States since Wilma in 2005; it's still standing at Category 2 right now, but it's expected to strengthen before it hits land around 1:00 a.m. Saturday morning. If you live in the path of the storm, be sure to check with your local law enforcement agencies to see what the latest evacuation orders are. A free Airbnb is tempting, but make sure it's really your safest option at this point before you hop in the car.