Whether we recognize or not the impact of human activity on the environment, the fact remains that climate is changing, as evidenced by the increasing number and intensity of what we call natural disasters, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and so on. Since times immemorial, man looked for shelter to protect themselves against nature or other humans. If we, modern people, associate home with the idea of comfort or leisure, the ancient man as well as the modern man left homeless by natural disasters associate shelter with the idea of survival. It is less than home, but more than total exposure to adversity, hostility or death. And that makes all the difference in the world.
An emergency response shelter is a place available to people for temporary occupancy, in case they are no longer able to live in their stable homes. Likely causes may be extreme natural phenomena such as earthquakes, storms, tsunamis, volcano eruptions or social phenomena, such as civil wars, religious persecution, or health-related phenomena, such as various pandemics. All these situations threaten people’s life, obliging them to flee in order to survive. Though disaster relief shelters are meant rather to cope with the adversity of nature, the other phenomena are as life-threatening.
But first let us describe them. Whereas there are a wide variety of emergency response shelters in terms of the material used, shape, size, function, facilities, in terms of body construction, these units are basically of two types: semi-rigid and rigid. The semi-rigid ones are ideal for short term relief, they come complete from the factory and people may move in right away. The rigid ones, on the other hand, are constructed on site in several hours in a mold. Both ensure a timely response, the first by being instantly deployable, and the second by being easily constructed in a matter of hours. These are usually made of foam for better resistance, but depending on the kind of situation they may be inflated structures with a tracking system, ensuring a better versatility, or even sandbag shelters. The foam has though the advantage of better resistance, fitting the shelters for long-term use as permanent homes.
For a shelter to be really an emergency response one, there are some criteria to be fulfilled. The first is the assemblage time – they should be assembled or deployed instantaneously or in a matter of hours. If they are not made on site of raw materials, to be found just anywhere, the shipping time is of utmost importance: that is why they should be compact or easily stackable. The second is the manpower required for their installation: it should be minimal. The third is their simplicity: if they are meant for emergencies, their deployment should not require specialized training or using special tools. The fourth is their mobility: they should have an adaptable design, so that to be used in multiple configurations, for multiple emergency response applications or should be adjustable in terms of size or length, And last but not least, they should be cost-effective, constructed with minimum materials so that to be affordable, as a very large volume of shelters is essential, usually disasters affecting a large number of people at one time. The ones that meet to the greatest extent these criteria are the best to provide for disaster relief.