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Planet Earth

Home-in-a-Box for Disaster Survivors

It rolls, unfolds, inflates, and habitates.

By Arnie CooperJuly 22, 2011 5:00 AM

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Six years ago, after watching hurricane Katrina and Pakistan’s Kashmir earthquake leave tens of thousands homeless, California builder Michael Conner set out to design a sturdy shelter that could be deployed at a moment’s notice in the wake of a disaster. He is now taking orders for the LifeCube, the world’s only inflatable refuge with a built-in hard floor.

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American Red Cross emergency services manager Pamela Voge, who saw the system deployed during an airport drill last summer, says that the LifeCube’s edge over other temporary shelters comes from its ease of deployment and stability. In five minutes, two people can set up the base and inflate the beams to expand the polyurethane canopy. Amenities include a chemical toilet, water filter, food, cookstove, heater, and sleeping space for six.

lifecube.jpg
The 750-pound LifeCube can be rolled to its setup site and expanded into a 144-square-foot shelter. | Jamey Lantz/Courtesy LifeCube Inc

At $15,000, the blow-up abode is a pricey option for families, but perhaps not the government. The Federal Emergency Management Agency paid $14,000 each for more than 100,000 hurricane relief trailers in 2005.

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