Haiti Revisited - Hurricane Isaac's Unnecessary Deaths
- Published on August 27, 2012
- Written by Dr Tom Phelan
In 2010 following the earthquake devastation in Haiti, I became concerned about the use of tarps and similar temporary shelter materials because of the strong possibility of a hurricane later that same year. Haitians were spared the any serious hurricanes in 2010 and 2011, but in 2012, they were seriously impacted by Hurricane Isaac.
What I proposed in 2010 was to use ConEx containers for temporary shelter, feeling that they were in abundance and more durable than tarps. I shared my thoughts at DRJ in Orlando with Hector Fulgencio and Cole Emerson. Hector was familiar with ConEx containers from his work in the shipping industry. Cole has vast experience in disaster response. The consensus among us was that there was indeed a surplus of containers in the U.S. and the military could offload them and place them using heavy lift helicoptors. This would not necessitate using the ports in Haiti which had been seriously damaged. Since ConEx containers are transported via the sea, there would also be no need for the damaged and overcrowded airport.
ConEx containers have been used successfully for shelter both by the military and by the private sector. If properly ventilated and secured to the ground, they are far more resilient than a temporary shelter made from a tarp.
We tried to convince American authorities to create a partnership wherein surplus ConEx containers could be donated in an appropriate manner to provide their donors with a tax break while providing the American government with a way to assist earthquake victims with far more secure should a hurricane threaten Haiti. We found no takers.
It was an idea. Many ideas fail to come to fruition due to securing the necessary “clout” or “compassion” to make them work. We are now seeing what might have been different if this idea had provided more secure shelter to victims of the earthquake in Haiti.