Airbnb lets hosts offer their homes for future emergencies

Let people know you'll take take them in during a crisis.

Airbnb hosts have long had the opportunity to offer free housing during emergencies. What about making yourself available ahead of time? If you live in the right area, you're set. The home rental service is launching a pilot program that will let San Jose residents put themselves on a standby list before there's even a hint of a crisis. The move should speed up the community's response in the event of a crisis, ensuring that stranded people don't have to wait for shelters over their heads.

The test run will also include in-person preparedness recruiting and training as well as a "new operational protocol" for emergencies that includes management teams. The pilot is poised to expand to other cities after the San Jose launch.

There's a strong incentive to do this: it builds good will at a time when some cities are still giving Airbnb the cold shoulder. At the same time, there's no question this could be useful during earthquakes or other scenarios where there may be an urgent need for places to stay.