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Study: Airbnbs may be falling short in fire protection

Some locations missing important equipment
Posted: 4:38 PM, May 10, 2018
Updated: 2018-05-11 10:28:54-04

When you stay at a hotel, you wouldn't think twice about having things like smoke detectors or fire extinguishers. But what about an Airbnb? New findings out suggest many Airbnb venues in the United States may be falling short.

Monica Shaffer and her husband designed her mother-in-law basement to help guests feel right at home when using Airbnb.

"They have a private bathroom with their own walk-in shower," Shaffer said.

But most importantly, she designed it to keep them safe, if there were ever a fire.

"They can get out to this door if they need to," Shaffer said. "If it's an emergency fire in this room we also keep a fire extinguisher on hand in the room. It's right down here. And fire alarm as is to be expected. And there was a carbon monoxide monitor too over in that quarter. If there's ever any concern for that."

When asked why Shaffer decided to undertake safety precautions, "Well I think it's just a standard expectation," Shaffer answered.

Unfortunately all of the attention and care Shaffer takes, may not be as standard as you think at other Airbnb locations. New findings out from the Relevant Journal show only 57.5 percent of Airbnb venues have carbon monoxide alarms, 42.2 percent have fire extinguishers, and 36 percent have first aid kits.

The results surprised Shaffer. 

Most Airbnbs are in private homes, and although some states have standards for rental properties, national fire safety requirements don't usually apply. Although Airbnb encourages hosts to install fire safety equipment, it doesn't require them to provide proof. Researchers hope this information will change that.

"You know it's having those safety precautions in place that make you feel like you're at home," Shaffer said. "And Airbnb is about staying in people's homes and feeling at home."

Airbnb responded to the study with this statement:

“At Airbnb, safety is our priority. All hosts must certify that they follow all local laws and regulations. We run home safety workshops with local fire and EMS services all over the world, making sure our hosts have access to the best information in order to keep their guests, their homes and themselves safe. Every listing on Airbnb clearly states the specific safety amenities it has, including smoke and CO detectors, fire extinguishers, and first aid kits, so guests can look first and then decide whether that home, tree-house, yurt, or igloo is the one they want to book or not. In addition, every home in Airbnb's Plus Collection [airbnb.com] must have a smoke and CO detector in order to even be included. The study itself says it has not undergone any ethical review, it used data from three years before Airbnb Plus even debuted, and it looks to be designed to help an incumbent industry who has its own fire safety issues that need to be addressed.

“We believe more work needs to be done across the board throughout the travel and tourism industry. According to the US Fire Administration [usfa.fema.gov] there are an estimated 3,900 hotel and motel fires each year that cause 15 deaths, 150 injuries and $76 million in property loss. Even though there have been a number of tragic high profile hotel CO poisoning incidents, only 14 states [ncsl.org] require CO alarms in hotels by statute. Sadly, only 41% [census.gov] of all homes in the US even reported having working CO detectors. Whether a home is listed on Airbnb or not, all homes and hotel rooms should have smoke and CO detectors, fire extinguishers and first aid kits. At Airbnb we give out free smoke and CO detectors [airbnb.com] to each and every host who wants one. We have been doing this for the last three years.

“We will reach out to the authors of the study, as we would like to work with them to increase awareness of safety measures for all homeowners, again, whether they are Airbnb hosts or not -- and transparency is key, so we will continue to ensure our guests know exactly what safety features their Airbnb has before they book it."