Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Versatility of the Life Cube Platform

By Mary Schnack, Crisis Communications Specialist

When I first heard about Life Cube, I was impressed with its concept—durable shelter, quick to deploy.
I was in a Rwanda refugee camp in 1993 in neighboring Burundi, when all people had were blue tarps that had been distributed during this emergency. I was so in Sierra Leone refugee camps in Guinea in 1995. These were camps that had been there for a longer period and time. There was a school for the children and nice grass huts had been built for shelter. It was like a Ritz Carlton compared to the Rwanda camps.

So I do have a somewhat first-hand knowledge about the needs of shelter during disasters. But the more I learned about Life Cube and talked to others who have worked in disasters, the more I learned about how such shelters are needed.
­I imagined these being used as shelters for those who didn’t have homes, such as the people in Joplin after the tornado, in New Orleans after Katrina or in the refuge camps in Africa.

However, I have learned there are other much needed uses for this type of shelter. The versatility of the Life Cube platform beyond being a shelter for those homeless is also important. Humanitarian aid workers are generally going into areas where this is nothing. They need a place to hang their hat, put out their shingle.

Faye Coleman, President of Westover Consulting, had a contract to provide counseling services after the Katrina Hurricane in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. “We could have used a shelter like that to hold our sessions,” she said. “There were no offices, no homes, no where to meet that people might find comfortable enough to really talk.”

After Katrina, businesses as diverse as the Verizon store, Sempra Energy, Burger King—all were ready to get back into business, but had no “shelter” to operate out of. Life Cube can also help businesses get back to work more quickly—which helps re-establish a community and local economy.

Hospitals can use such a shelter for triage—of patients AND staff and volunteers. Life Cube set up a shelter a few days after the tornado in Joplin, MO, in the St. Johns Hospital parking lot for that purpose and hospital administration was impressed with its effectiveness.

It makes sense—workers go to a disaster site to work—and where do they set up? Where do they get people out of the elements? Where do they process paperwork? Have team meetings? Log where volunteers and workers are deployed?

Life Cube is listening as well as it goes to shows and demonstrations around the world. They are listening to what people who work in these environments want and need, and are creating new designs based around the Life Cube concept to meet these needs.

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