5 emergency shelters for use after disasters

One of the things that is often not given a lot of thought in the aftermath of natural or man made disaster are the importance of shelters and temporary relief housing for those who have lost their homes.

In the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the summer of 2005, the Federal Emergency Management Agency spent $2.7 billion to purchase 145,000 mobile homes and trailers to serve as temporary housing for those affected by the storms, according to a report published by the Associated Press.

Since that time, however, many companies have taken it upon themselves to develop new and innovative structures that can be delivered and easily assembled for only a fraction of what it cost the federal government to purchase mobile homes. These shelters range from hard-panel structures that can be quickly assembled and broken down repeatedly to inflatable tents that provide temporary relief.

With that said, here are five innovative emergency structures that are either already on the market or will be shortly.

World Shelters U-Domes


World Shelters U-Dome structures are ideal for temporary relief housing. The U-Dome 200, frameless, hard-panel shelter provides 230 square feet of living space that can be deployed in a variety of environments. Not only is the structure itself flame retardant, but its 5-millimeter single shell model can withstand winds up to 90 mph and snow fall of up to 8 inches. Making for an easy installation process, a group of four people can setup a U-Dome shelter in about four hours, according to the company’ executive director, Bruce LeBel.

The U-Dome 200, which is capable of housing a family of five, is also available in a 120 model, which can accommodate a family of three. According to LeBel, a single-shell U-Dome 200 with locking double doors, four panel vents, two roof vents, one fixed window, and one window opening costs $2,895. A full insulated and winterized U-Dome 200 with snow peak costs $4,895. LeBel said that the U-Dome has been deployed in several areas throughout California, as well as the Midwest. To learn more about World Shelters, visit http://worldshelters.org/.

HOMErgent Corporation’s Flexayurt shelters

Flexayurt shelters

These life sustaining shelters from the HOMErgent Corporation were given the “Best Security Idea” award in the 2008 Global Security Challenge. According to the company’s director, Arthur Zwern, since the market is currently dominated by trailers and other “big box-type” solutions that are not sustainable and can’t be delivered in an efficient manner, HOMErgent has developed the Flexayurt housing units, which are off-grid eco shelters. Zwern explained that the shelter is basically self-sustaining and have a low eco footprint, converting sunlight into the energy for the shelter’s lights and appliances. The shelters start at $3,000 per unit and can be configured for different living conditions, be it remote workers or family seeking disaster refuge. A standard unit consists of about 170-square foot living space.

Though they have yet to be formally deployed, Zwern said that his company has received interest from the military, mineral export companies, oil companies, and the Red Cross. The Flexayurt shelters are capable of handling earthquakes, as well as hurricane force winds. Zwern added that they have also had talks with the military to make them bulletproof for use in housing troops. Also, because they’re self-sustainable, they can be used for an indefinite period of time and broken down and setup repeatedly without a problem. Zwern thinks that the biggest vertical market for the company’s solution will eventually be the world’s poor.

“The world is using up its resources very fast. Precious resources from oil, to silver, to platinum… and those resources are in the developing countries,” he said. There’s less and less of those resources and the developing countries are eating more and more of them and they are also making more and more pollution every year. There are billions of desperate people causing unrest and terrorism and conflict… and that’s only going to go away if they get a decent life.”

For more information about HOMErgent and its Flexayurt shelters, visit http://homergent.com/.

The Intershelter Dome

The Intershelter Dome is a temporary housing structure that resembles a modern-type of igloo. The domes, which are available in a 14-foot model for $7,500 and a 20-foot model for $12,500, can provide shelter to between two and six people. The domes are made out of an aerospace composite material and can withstand hurricane force winds, as well as earthquakes. Arctic and desert models are also available.

According to Intershelter President and CEO Capt. Don Kubley, the domes can be put together by three people in about two hours. Intershelter Domes have been deployed in 15 countries thus far, Kubley said. In the U.S., they have been deployed in California, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, New York, and Louisiana. As with some of the aforementioned shelters, the Intershelter Dome not only serves as disaster relief housing, but can also be used for a wide variety of other applications including migrant workers, military housing, hunting camps, the homeless communities, and quarantine shelters.

Although they have only had mass production capabilities for a little over year, Kubley said the company is currently in talks with the Department of Defense about providing its shelters to the military. The company is also working with FEMA to develop a first responder camp, in which the company would provide shelters for 300 first responders, as well as medical facilities in the first 24 hours following a disaster event.

“Mark my words, a year from now, when you turn on the television to Fox News or CNN you’ll see (our domes) after every major disaster and theaters of war,” Kubley said.

To get more information about the Intershelter Dome, visit intershelter.com/index.cfm.

The Life Cube

Built by Inflatable World, this inflatable shelter can be quickly deployed anywhere emergency housing is needed. The self-contained cube is made out of vinyl material and can withstand the elements in the “remotest of places,” according to the company’s website. Inside the shelter, refugees will find a week’s supply of food and water for four people, a heating and cooking stove, four inflatable beds with sleeping bags, an ice box, interior lighting, first aid kit, and a CB/FM/AM radio among other things. Everything is powered using a battery that is recharged using solar energy. For more information, visit http://www.theinflatableworld.com/.

UniFold shelters

UniFold shelters, which are made out of a weather resistant material, are used by the UN, FEMA, and the American Red Cross among other relief organizations for various humanitarian needs. The UniFold is available in sizes ranging from 10-feet wide to 22-feet wide and are built to withstand the elements. The structures do not absorb water or mildew and can be used in an encampment format for up to two years, according to the company’s website. In addition UniFold structures feature a non-absorbent floor and have roofs that can withstand snow accumulations of up to six inches. To learn more about UniFold and its various emergency relief structures, visit http://www.unifold.net/.