Government Technology

San Francisco Embraces Sharing Economy for Emergency Preparedness

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June 14, 2013 By

San Francisco is broadening its emergency preparedness resources and use of technology through a new partnership with BayShare, an organization dedicated to sharing goods and services, according to a Tuesday, June 11, announcement from Mayor Edwin Lee’s office.

The city will be working with companies already participating in BayShare like Airbnb, City CarShare and Yerdle during emergencies such as natural disasters to help citizens either get to safety or get access to resources they may need.

“I think when people share, they have this sense that once they share, their spaces, their things are community property and they want to share those things with other people,” said BayShare Executive Director Milicent Johnson. 

The idea is to utilize a “sharing economy,” which is essentially using technology and social media to promote the sharing and reusing of assets like cars, bikes, rooms and tools.

BayShare, while not a nonprofit, functions as a collective that connects companies and other entities to one another, so that residents can have access to shared goods when needed.

“It’s good to see ‘sharing economy’ companies advance civic goals like disaster preparedness,” said David Chiu, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, in the official announcement. “I’m confident that BayShare will improve the communication between this emerging sector and local government as 'collaborative consumption' evolves and grows in San Francisco.”

Francis Zamora, the public information officer for the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, said Airbnb, a website commonly used for finding temporary housing, recently launched an emergency housing platform – a tool that aligns with the vision of the new partnership. 

The platform was developed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy since many East Coast residents were forced to evacuate as a result of the severe weather. Now, during an emergency, displaced residents can find temporary housing, free of charge, by logging onto the Airbnb site.

Zamora said the city came together with the American Red Cross, the Tenderloin Hunger Task Force and companies that participate in BayShare to determine how the companies involved can contribute their skills and resources to help make San Francisco more prepared and resilient in emergencies.

BayShare will also join San Francisco’s Disaster Council – a group chaired by Mayor Lee, with representatives from nearly every city department, the Board of Supervisors and private-sector companies like PG&E. The new partnership between BayShare and San Francisco will also factor in to the city’s new disaster preparedness website, SF72.org, expected to launch this fall.

“If we can get people involved in that sharing space before a disaster, even if the technology is out during a disaster, they already know who in the neighborhood can help and who needs help,” Zamora said. 
 
Photo from Shutterstock.


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