US study highlights Airbnb safety failings

US study highlights Airbnb safety failings

A survey of Airbnb hosts in the US found most properties lack fire extinguishers and first-aid kits, half are without carbon-monoxide detectors and one in five lack a smoke detector.

The report on the study of 120,000-plus properties in 16 US cities reported “safety deficiencies” in Airbnb ‘venues’ and described the results as “troubling”.

The study by academics at the Centre for Injury Research and Policy at the John Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore concluded by calling for “regulations compliant with National Fire Protection Association fire safety standards”.

It found 80% of a sample of 120,691 Airbnb venues reported having smoke detectors, 56% CO (carbon monoxide) detectors, 42% fire extinguishers and 36% first-aid kits, and noted: “This is substantially lower than the universal requirement for hotels.”

The report, entitled Reported Fire Safety and First-Aid Amenities in Airbnb Venues in 16 American Cities, was published by the BMJ (British Medical Journal) this week.

The authors note the information they have drawn on is “self-reported by hosts” and state: “There is no validation of the accuracy of the host’s reporting [of fire-safety features] or if they are in working order.”

They point out the safety features examined for the study are “standard for hotels and homes” and conclude: “The low proportions reported for some cities are troubling.”

The authors also note: “Municipal governments can take action to regulate the peer-to-peer hospitality sector to ensure fire safety amenities.”

The report is based on data from InsideAirbnb.com which compiles information on Airbnb listings posted by hosts. Airbnb has so far declined to make such information available.

The data covers a 14-month period from October 2015 to December 2016 for cities including Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC.

The study found a higher presence of smoke detectors in Nashville and Portland which “may be explained by each city’s requirement for a permit to register an Airbnb venue”.

It notes of hotels and short-term rental properties: “Guests are often unfamiliar with their surroundings and the venue’s layout.

“To help mitigate these challenges, hotels have standards that legally require fire-protection specifications such as posted fire-escape routes, fire doors, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, fire sprinkler systems and exit passageways.

“The same is not true for privately owned short-term rental properties now available through peer-to-peer accommodations. These emerging hospitality settings are not uniformly regulated . . . Most are not regulated.”

The report quotes Airbnb’s explanation of its policy on health and safety, noting: “Airbnb has stated: ‘We strongly encourage all hosts to install smoke and CO detectors in their listings, but we don’t require hosts to show proof that they have these devices’.”

Airbnb responded to the report by insisting: “Safety is our priority.”

Nick Shapiro, Airbnb global head of trust and risk management, said: “All hosts must certify that they follow all local laws and regulations.

“We run home safety workshops with local fire and EMS [emergency medical services] all over the world, making sure our hosts have access to the best information 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.

“We give out free smoke and CO detectors to every host who wants one.”

MoreReported fire safety and first-aid amenities in Airbnb venues in 16 American cities [External]

 

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