Preparing your space—and your guests—for emergencies

Plan ahead with these tips from global health and safety organizations.
By Airbnb on Mar 5, 2020
5 min read
Updated Mar 5, 2020


  • Learn how to prepare your space and your guests for emergencies with these tips

    • Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and know the signs of CO poisoning

    • Plan a home maintenance schedule, and provide guests with emergency supplies

    As a host, you have a lot to remember and unless you make an effort to focus on home safety, things can get overlooked. From staying on top of basic tasks like replacing batteries to sharing an evacuation plan with your guests, we know how important it is for you to stay prepared in case of a fire, natural disaster, or other emergency. We’ve compiled some tips from the Global Disaster Preparedness Center, the American Red Cross, and other health and safety organizations, but it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with any rules and regulations specific to your region.

    Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

    You may already know about the dangers of a fire, but what about the threat of carbon monoxide (CO)? Many common household appliances—like gas stoves, water heaters, ovens, furnaces, and charcoal grills—can emit CO. The invisible, odorless, colorless gas can be dangerous and even lethal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Without proper inspection and ventilation, these appliances can cause dangerous gas buildup that can lead to serious health issues and even death.

    Help prevent CO poisoning by installing alarms near every sleeping area, as the CDC suggests. You can help prevent fires by installing smoke alarms on every level of your space and outside each sleeping area at a minimum, according to the American Red Cross. You can also buy combination alarms that work for smoke and CO. Be sure to update the amenities section of your listing description to let potential guests know that you’ve taken these steps to protect their safety.

    Help your guests understand the danger of CO poisoning

    Once you’ve installed carbon monoxide alarms, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the common sources of carbon monoxide and the telltale signs of CO poisoning:

    • Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. If you or your guests experience these and you suspect CO poisoning, the CDC recommends that you exit the building immediately and call 911.
    • Your house manual is a great place to remind guests about why they should never use a grill or camp stove indoors, which includes garages and basements. This reminder is especially important in climates where your guests may be tempted to use stoves or ovens for warmth. You can explain the dangers of CO, and be sure to provide reliable sources of heat.
    • In your house manual, you can communicate that if the CO alarm sounds, guests should follow a recommended safety protocol, like going outdoors immediately or moving near an open window or door if they can’t get outside.
    • Note: Some homes that don’t have any fuel-burning appliances (i.e. homes that run entirely on electric) may not need CO alarms, but it’s a good idea to contact your local fire department’s non-emergency number to confirm.

    Build a maintenance schedule into your hosting routine

    Test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms regularly. The CDC recommends checking or replacing the batteries when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. Most alarms should be replaced every five to 10 years, but check the manufacturer’s instructions; many units have a tag or date stamp on the back to indicate their age or expiration date. While you’re at it, wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and furnaces should be professionally inspected and cleaned once a year. Water heaters should be serviced at least once a year.

    Protect your space and guests against fires

    Set up your space with safety in mind, and let your guests know what to do in the event of a fire:

    • Install fire extinguishers in the kitchen, garage, and on every floor if possible. Keep them away from heat sources (like an oven), as heat may make them less effective, according to the American Red Cross. Make them easy to find by putting stickers on doors and cabinets where they are located and including their location in your house manual.
    • Create an evacuation plan that includes two ways to exit each room and a pre-identified location to meet outside, and put that in your house manual as well.
    • Keep your stove area clean, and remove anything nearby that could catch fire.
    • If you purchase a space heater, select a model that stops if it tips over.
    • Remind guests to turn off portable heaters when not in use, avoid smoking inside, and never leave candles unattended.

    Plan ahead for natural disasters

    From earthquakes and hurricanes to typhoons and severe winter storms, you can prepare for natural disasters. Here are some tips on how you can get ready as a host:

    • Sign up for alerts: The Global Disaster Preparedness Center provides real-time emergency alerts and other notifications through its emergency apps.
    • Provide guests with local TV and radio station information to help keep them informed.
    • Remind them to keep their phones fully charged, carry extra cash, and top off their gas tanks if they have a car.

    Provide first-aid kits and other emergency supplies

    Equip your listing with supplies that your guests may need in an emergency:

    • Make or purchase a survival kit and include essentials like water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, and extra batteries.
    • Add a first-aid kit and other items that might be relevant to hazards in your area—for example, life jackets if your space is in a flood zone, or warm blankets if it could be affected by a blizzard. Keep the supplies in an easy-to-carry bag in the event of an evacuation.

    Keep emergency information handy

    Let your guests know how to get help in an emergency by downloading and filling out Airbnb’s updated Emergency Guide. The guide prompts you to fill in phone and address information for your local police station, hospital, and fire department; the location of safety amenities, like your fire extinguisher, first-aid kit, and gas shut-off valve; and your emergency evacuation plan. We recommend filling out at least two versions of the guide: one in English and the other in your native language. Place the guide in a common area like the kitchen or entryway, and include it in your house manual.

    It’s also a great idea to include clear directions to your property in your house manual, and send the manual to your guests before they check in to help them travel safely. If they’re going to arrive after dark, you might consider leaving a porch and interior light on for them, and provide any additional information they might need to find a lockbox or get inside. 

    To help you stay on top of things, including updating your first-aid kit and checking your smoke alarms, we’ve also created a Safety Checklist that you can print, post, and review as part of your hosting routine. Thanks for doing your part to keep your space—and your guests—safe.

    For more tips on how to keep your home safe, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Global Disaster Preparedness Center, and the American Red Cross. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Global Disaster Preparedness Center, and the American Red Cross do not endorse this content or Airbnb.

    Mar 5, 2020
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