Current State of the Sharing Economy and Evacuations: Lessons from California
Research Team: Susan Shaheen (lead) and Stephen Wong
UC Campus(es): UC Berkeley
Problem Statement: In 2017 and 2018, California was severely impacted by a number of devastating wildfires that required thousands of people to evacuate. These evacuations were hampered by poor communication, traffic congestion, and transportation and shelter resource deficiencies. To ensure that all citizens have both transportation and shelter in evacuations, agencies must consider alternative strategies for expanding resources, such as leveraging the sharing economy.
Project Description: To understand the possibility of leveraging the sharing economy to provide housing and transportation in an evacuation, researchers at UC Berkeley distributed an online survey (n=226) to individuals impacted by the Southern California wildfires in 2017 (i.e., the Thomas Fire, Creek Fire, and Skirball Fire) and found a moderate number of private citizens are willing to share their own resources, especially transportation, in a future evacuation. The project also collected information on the actions of sharing economy companies in recent California wildfires in 2017 and 2018 and found that private sharing economy companies (such as Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb) have taken actions to assist residents affected by California wildfires, such as offering free rides and providing free housing. Based on these findings, policy considerations include engaging sharing economy companies at the local level when developing community-based plans to ensure transportation for neighbors and amending current evacuation plans (e.g., ESF 1 - Transportation Functional Annex) to add private companies as resource partners and designate the appropriate communication flow. At the state level, the California Office of Emergency Services Emergency Plan should be amended to require disaster councils to add a multi-hazard evacuation plan with clearly outlined transportation assets (public and private) as a part of an Emergency Operations Plan, and sharing economy companies should be included in the Business Operations Center pursuant of SB 546 (Disaster Public-Private Partnerships Act of 2006). In addition, the State should require disaster councils to identify all available resources, whether public or private, for vulnerable groups to meet the requirement of AB 2311 (Emergency Services: Access and Functional Needs in Emergencies Act of 2016), which requires cities and counties to integrate access and functional needs into emergency plans upon the next update.