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Hurricane Katrina Inspired This Man to Revolutionize Emergency Housing

February 4, 2014
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Hurricane Katrina Inspired This Man to Revolutionize Emergency Housing
Kyle Niemi/US Coast Guard via Getty Images
The Reaction Housing System is affordable, reusable, quickly deliverable, and a lifesaver for those displaced by disasters.

Natural disasters don’t end when storms subside or fires are extinguished. One look at the lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina — which walloped the Gulf Coast in 2005, killing 1,833 people — paints a dreary picture of how human suffering continues long after the media has turned its cameras elsewhere. More than 1 million people were displaced during Katrina. A month later, 600,000 were still without homes. This figure shocked Michael McDaniel. Ever since images of Katrina’s mass devastation shocked the country, McDaniel has been working on building a better system of emergency housing — one that’s affordable, reusable, and most importantly, quickly deliverable. His Reaction Housing System’s prototype, Exo, fits the bill, and could revolutionize disaster response.

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Exos are individual housing units based on the design of a Styrofoam coffee cup. Each 80-square-foot unit includes a base, which acts as the floor, an upper shell, which makes up the walls and roof, and is equipped with lights and outlets via a special connector line. The units are private, with climate-controlled sleeping quarters for up to a family of four, and easily assembled. McDaniel’s idea is to store the components in centralized warehouses across the country, which can also serve as distribution centers during and after a disaster. That way, the Exo units can be rapidly transported from these facilities to deployment sites via any means of transportation. The company estimates that housing for tens or hundreds of thousands of people could be set up using the Reaction Housing System in less than 24 hours, depending on the event’s proximity to a deployment location.

FEMA’s infamous trailers, which cost $65,000 each, are mandated for one-time use, and can only be shipped one or two at a time, due to their size. On the other hand, Exo costs only $5,000 per unit. They are reusable, easily storable and can be stacked up to 28 per truck. In other words, the Reaction Housing System is much more cost-effective and usable in the chaos that surrounds natural disasters. With order requests from the U.S., Haiti, Japan and Syria, the only thing holding the company back is production. “Once we’re in production, the world is, hopefully, our oyster,” McDaniel said.

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