Five ways to support relief workers in the wake of a disaster

Categories: Open Homes

Right after a disaster hits, communities band together to help those who’ve been affected. Though this need for help is immediate, in some cases recovery efforts extend for months afterward.

During the recovery stage, nonprofits and governmental agencies deploy relief workers to support impacted communities as they build resilience. From repairing internet connectivity to rebuilding homes and main roads, relief workers and volunteers can find places to stay in close proximity to their worksites with Airbnb’s Open Homes program.

We spoke to relief workers and nonprofit managers about how to prepare an extra room or whole home to accommodate relief workers while they provide aid. Here is a list of five ways you can support a relief worker’s stay, so they can respond to the disaster effectively and focus on the critical work that needs to get done.

Respond to messages about your home
Relief workers, volunteers, or nonprofit staff members might reach out to ask questions about your home, including number of beds and bedrooms, and their exact dates. There is a wide range and diversity of spaces that may fit their needs—everything from a single room for one person to a stand-alone home for eight people working on the same project.

Sharing detailed information about your home before moving forward with the reservation can ensure that your space makes sense for this particular group. “Equipment is a really big piece of what we do,” explained Felicia Carmichael, who manages corporate relations for All Hands and Hearts. “It’s helpful to know beforehand if there’s space to park large trucks or a backyard to store materials.”

Ask what amenities relief workers will need
Having access to basic amenities like clean sheets, towels, and laundry can make them feel at home. “A worker might be managing hundreds of volunteers per day and need some space to do laundry or cook a meal,” explained Kellie Bentz, who leads Airbnb’s Disaster Response & Relief team.

Identify any common spaces available for meetings
It’s helpful if you’re able to identify any private spaces in your home where a group can hold logistical meetings. Often a living room or extra yard space is just what they’re looking for. “Relief workers are often looking for space to hold operational meetings, a landing ground where people can stop in, and a place to decompress at the end of the day,” Bentz said.

“On the first few days of a disaster recovery effort, we’re trying to understand what every person on the team is doing,” echoed Michael Bowers, who leads humanitarian operations for Mercy Corps. “We discuss who’s gonna lead what effort—often in a common space.”

Consider sharing your knowledge of the area
Before relief workers arrive at your home, and throughout their stay, you can share information about local roads, safety information, grocery stores, and other relevant resources. Your unique knowledge of the area is incredibly valuable — and can help relief workers maximize their time on the ground.

“We’re responding right away, and at times we don’t know the roads that well,” Carmichael said. Nonprofit managers often encourage people hosting relief workers to share information that only locals would know about the area, like roads that are blocked by trees and debris.

If you don’t end up meeting the relief workers staying at your home in-person, you can always share this information in a message on Airbnb.

Prepare your home with long workdays in mind
By hosting relief workers and volunteers, you are already taking a meaningful step to help your community recover. If you are staying nearby and are able to, actions like stocking the fridge with healthy snacks and providing clean drinking water—or just leaving a nice note thanking them for their work to rebuild your community—can go a long way.

“Relief workers work basically 12-hour days, 7-days a week,” said Bowers. “So eating healthy and staying hydrated is incredibly important.”

Find out how you can also support people who were impacted by a disaster. If you still have questions about how Open Homes works, you can read stories about people who’ve offered a place to stay to those that are impacted by disasters.

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