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VPA students devise design for natural disaster relief mobile units
VPA students devise design for natural disaster relief mobile unitsOctober 19, 2005Jaime Winne Alvarez firstname.lastname@example.org
Last semester, during their fourth year in the industrial and interaction design program in Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, Sara Raiken, Miya Teraki and Peter Therrien were asked to create a design project of their own interest. At that time, the tsunami in South East Asia had just occurred and the students were seeing the problems regarding sufficient and timely response to natural disasters. Seeing a design opportunity, the students examined what they felt was an opportunity to improve the support systems of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, domestic and international humanitarian organizations.
“We felt there was room for improvement,” says Raiken. This observation began a semester of research and design for the group. Now, after finishing their research and design project and in light of the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the students are releasing their design for a natural disaster relief system in the hopes that it might help inspire local, national and international emergency relief agencies.
“Our design comes into play after a disaster occurs,” says Raiken. “It is based on mobile units that are located at regional Red Cross/Red Crescent centers.”
Each unit is pre-assembled to serve approximately 500 individuals, without need to restock. The mobile units are easily transportable and capable of adapting to indoor and outdoor situations, which allows for units to be placed in areas that need them most. The disaster unit is designed to be assembled in any safe area, helping emergency response organizations, like the Red Cross, form the nucleus of a temporary relief location. They also provide help organizing traffic flow.
When assembled, each unit looks like a group of small phone booths connected by countertops and screens. Each unit is comprised of four main components.
Part 1 is the main outer casing that holds Parts 2, 3 and 4 inside for easy transportation and assembly. It acts as the last stage in the system, where disaster victims would go to pick up their supply kits, etc.
Part 2, which the students redesigned from the current model, would provide people with comfort and the supplies they need. “We found it important that at a time of loss people were able to find comfort, familiarity and support to move on,” says Therrien. The redesign of the supply kits would also cause less waste. Instead of being made of plastic bottles, the students proposed that the unit use single-use pouches in addition to natural packaging materials.
Part 3 is the photo station that acts as the main “check-in center” for all disaster victims. The stand runs on solar power and a generator and is comprised of a digital camera and interface that document faces and names as a way to reunite people and act as a head count. This information can then be accessed globally on a secure Web site to help loved ones locate their family and friends. The photos would then be attached to disaster victims’ paperwork that is filled out later, and also used as a way of maintaining a database for future disasters.
Part 4 is a face projection screen that is stretched between Parts 1 and 3. Using LED flat screen technology, it scrolls the faces of those who have currently checked in at the disaster relief mobile center, and if applicable, other support centers located nearby. This would allow family members and friends to locate one another as they are checking into the relief centers.
The number of mobile disaster relief units in a given region would depend on the population of that area. For example, a large city like New York would have five units in the metropolitan area, while the Greater Syracuse area would have just one.
“With an organized system that is able to move easily as a disaster occurs this offers an opportunity to provide a higher quality of support and help ease people back into their normal lives,” says Teraki.
According to the students’ professor, Donald Carr, the team did an amazing job coming to terms with numerous aspects of disaster relief. “You only have to watch the nightly news to begin to grasp the enormous problems to be solved while working in such environments,” he says. “The solutions these students have proposed will support whole organizations, yet they can improve the life of a single survivor. Design proposals such as these are the kind of problems young designers should be focused on because when it comes to quality-of-life issues, they can have real impact.”