How Hurricane Katrina Inspired A Revolutionary New Disaster Shelter

The crisis that followed Hurricane Katrina eight years ago inspired Michael McDaniel to create EXO. The innovative emergency housing system offers a surprisingly simple alternative to house the over 32 million people who are displaced from natural disasters every year.

Since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Michael McDaniel has spent the last eight years creating a rapid response emergency housing system that is unparalleled in the world of disaster relief solutions. Though there have been competing Rapid Deployment Modules (RDMs) in the works, like Visible Good or Modularflex, McDaniel’s Reaction Housing System prototype, The EXO, stands apart from its opponents through its low-cost, transportability, durability, and its easy-to-assemble “kit of parts” that can have you safe and warm inside its bullet-proof structure in under two minutes.

Unlike the infamous trailers that FEMA deployed in response to Katrina, which cost around $20,000 each and were mandated for one-time use only, EXOs around $5,000, are reusable, recyclable, and because of their stackability, can be transported at a rate of 28 units per semi-truck load vs. one unit per truck for each FEMA Trailer.

Based on the design on a simple styrofoam coffee cup, each 80 square foot EXO unit consists of two pieces: a base which serves as the floor, and an upper shell making the walls and roof, that simply latch together wherever they are deployed. The upper shells are made from “Tegris, an incredibly durable composite, an aircraft-grade aluminum super structure,” according to Reaction Housing System’s site.

The design of the EXO also keeps in mind the human factors natural disaster aftermath, through its mass deployment configurations. The EXOs can be configured in a circle, semi-circle, or even connected in a straight line to make larger structures, creating zones or small cities, keeping families and neighbors together during the interim between disaster and permanent housing.

“One of the biggest hurdles they had after Katrina, particularly in the Astrodome, is that they didn't know where anybody was. There were literally people walking around with cardboard signs with their family member's names scrawled on them” says McDaniel.

Michael McDaniel

“There's a lot of software beyond just the architecture. We essentially have a Nest-style sensor packet that's inside each unit. As soon as they're powered up, they instantly form a mesh network and start relaying their status back to our central populous app.”

Nearing the end of their funding phase, the only thing holding back Reaction Housing Systems from fulfilling their demand for EXOs (including requests from Haiti, Japan, and Syria) is getting to the production phase. “Production is the next milestone for us. Once we're in production, the world is, hopefully, our oyster."

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  • Melvin Leppla

    How utterly system this system is. These devices keep communities, maybe neighborhoods, and definitely families together and allow for a transition to rebuilding. Adaptable, a relatively inexpensive system that can be set up quickly as to allow emergency services to catch it's breath, so it can concentrate obtaining food, water, sanitation, and security. It is the simple things that save us, and this is what this system provides.

  • Genny Griffin

    Mr. McDaniel, you are an inspiration! I hope you make millions; please produce these in the USA !

  • Mark Rozman

    Matbehave Alaska Structures produce them for you, they have a plant in Las Cruces,NM

  • Crystle Fire If you even had a clue what it was like in New Orleans after Katrina hit I could side with you. As a Disaster Inspector I know first hand what it was like. When a disaster happens , no matter how much you prepare, it will be 10 times worse than you expected. It can take days to get outside emergency help to the disaster. The Governor has to declare a disaster and then the President has to approve Federal assistance after the assessments are done. As far as "FEMA" staying in $300 a night hotels nothing could be farther from the truth. After a disaster folks who lost everything take every available hotel/motel room. We sleep in our cars in Walmart parking lots! Where were you?

    Immigrants have been coming to this country since the pilgrims. They weren't invited here by the Indians. They just came uninvited and stole this country from people that couldn't fight back. And guess what, YOUR and My ancestors should be ashamed for our crime on humans. Who do you blame?

  • dankuykendall

    I agreed with all of this until the Indians and the pilgrims. There is no proof that life was here prior to the migration and the inhabitants came from Asia over the land bridge (Berenga) so if their were people here prior, they either died, were killed by the invaders or were assimilated into the bands. So there you have it, short and sweet. We are all from immigrants, legal or not.

  • I'm sure Bush again will be blamed for the f'd up way the governor AND the city Mayor handled this situation. The Mayor had no clue on what to do accept to have a nice steak dinner and pretend it wasn't happening (gee just like Obama). BUT the governor was a complete joke. FEMA as usual were completely worthless and refused to go in and help since they might get their feet wet. Of course they stayed in $300. a night hotels. This whole nation including the states have become so corrupt I can see why liberals had such an easy time taking over!! Just look at Chicago were in just one weekend more people were killed than in Afghanestan and not one word from the liberal news. Typical for a liberal run country!!

  • ladywillpower1

    You sound like a whinny little troll who blames open minded people for all the worlds faults. What a sad and pathetic person you are.

  • Jacque Vasko

    The major problem in an emergency situation involving a large amount of the populace is bathroom facilities......Now that is really something you need to work around.

  • Jacque Vasko

    Red Cross, they weren't the best in Katrina, let me tell you. Plus we had this idiot for a governor that left people on a bridge with no water or food when all that could have been dropped by helicopters. Help was sent by law enforcement from North Louisiana that was turned away, etc etc etc It was the biggest f up ever

  • bobgrosch

    I'm not sure what idea you think should be shared with the Red Cross. There is often a great deal of misunderstanding about the Red Cross and its mission. For the record:

    The Red Cross is mandated by Congress (but without any congressional funding) to do the following three things: provide food, shelter, and emotional support to disaster victims immediately after a disaster strikes.

    Long term housing is not a Red Cross responsibility, and since their only source of funding is private donations, providing long term housing needs would be way beyond their resources.

    Long term solutions require considerable staff support. Since 90% of the Red Cross staff is volunteers, this is obviously not the agency to be covering long term needs.

    The Red Cross is a great organization, but their scope of activity is of necessity limited to the availability of their volunteers and their success at raising funds through private donations.