Hurricane Irma: Airbnb activates disaster response program to help evacuees

Airbnb is encouraging its hosts to open their doors to Florida residents who have been forced to evacuate because of Hurricane Irma — at no cost.

The online company, which connects people looking for places to stay with hosts who are renting their own rooms, apartments and houses, activated a disaster response program Thursday as the Category 5 hurricane barreled toward Florida, with its exact path still uncertain.

The program encourages Airbnb hosts to offer free temporary housing in northern Florida and southern Georgia to evacuees, as well as relief workers and volunteers who may come in after the storm to help with the recovery.

Many homes could be seen boarded up and left vacant in Naples Park on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, as residents evacuated the city in preparation of Hurricane Irma's arrival.

Airbnb hosts in the following Florida and Georgia counties are eligible to participate in the program and list their homes for free:

  • In Florida: Bay County, Escambia County, Leon County, Okaloosa County, Santa Rosa County, Walton County, Holmes County, Washington County, Calhoun County, Franklin County, Jackson County, Liberty County, Gadsden County, Gulf County, Wakulla County, Madison County, Jefferson County and Taylor County.
  • In Georgia: The Greater Atlanta Metropolitan Area, Decatur County, Grady County and Thomas County.

The no-cost listings will be available for the next three weeks, until Sept. 28.

Related:Airbnb website in response to Hurricane Irma

"We are hopeful that our host community will be able to help make the evacuation process easier for residents and their families,” said Kim Rubey, Airbnb’s global director of social good, in a statement. “Our thoughts are with everyone who might be impacted by the storm and we thank the dedicated government and emergency response personnel who are keeping our communities safe."

Airbnb developed its Irma disaster activation strategy in coordination with local and state emergency management and disaster relief officials. Airbnb may continue to expand where the tool is available based on need.  

Airbnb’s disaster relief program was first activated in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy and has since grown into a global disaster response initiative. To date, the program has been activated 75 times. It's currently active in Texas and Louisiana to support survivors of Hurricane Harvey.

Hosts interested in listing their properties for free can opt in by going to and clicking “I can offer my space for free.”

Airbnb has reached out to all of its users in the evacuating territories to make them aware of the tool if they're in need of shelter.

More:Hurricane Irma could create one of the largest mass evacuations in U.S. history

To find a free place to stay, evacuees follow the same link — — where they can find free listings by clicking “I need a place to stay.” The Airbnb platform then facilitates a connection between hosts and guests.

Floridians who are not Airbnb users can participate in the program, either as hosts or guests, by creating a verified account on the platform

All Airbnb service fees and state and local taxes will also be waived for eligible participants.

Hosts can decide how long they want to list their homes for free through Sept. 28.