November 5, 2008

Cheap and Effective Solutions for Humanitarian Emergencies

Photo: Department of Defense/
Fred W. Baker III

Under the leadership of Linton Wells II at National Defense University, STAR-TIDES promotes affordable, sustainable, support to stressed populations—post-disaster, impoverished, or post-war with or without involvement of the military. It is an international research project to promote unity of effort among diverse organizations where there is no unity of control. As such it seeks to build bridges across boundaries between business, civil society and government stakeholders who are working toward common goals. The principal means are: (1) trust building and social network development, (2) sharing information and “sense-making” approaches, and (3) low-cost logistic solutions.

On October 15, 2008, I attended a STAR-TIDES research demonstration at the Pentagon just outside of Washington, D.C. STAR-TIDES is an acronym for Sustainable Technologies, Accelerated Research-Transportable Infrastructures for Development and Emergency Support, which is geared to organize inexpensive and effective solutions for humanitarian emergencies or post-war reconstruction. Several companies were demonstrating some very fascinating technological products that would make an immediate impact in the developing world or in any humanitarian emergency.

For example, Windsor, Vermont-based Seldon Technologies designed the Seldon WaterBox™, which according to their data sheet, "uses Seldon’s unique carbon nanomaterial to absorb contaminants from water. The system creates drinking water by removing bacteria, virus, cysts and other contaminants without the need for heat, ultraviolet light, chemicals, electricity, or waiting time."

GATR Technologies, a Huntsville, Alabama-based defense and satellite company, produces the GATR-Com™ 2.4 Meter Inflatable Deployable Satellite Communication System, which "features a unique deployable design that provides high-bandwidth communications for transmission of secure and non-secure data, voice, and video."

Additional companies demonstrating their products included the Hexayurt, a sturdy and efficient emergency shelter constructed of suitable materials including common building materials (fire safe insulation boards), hexacomb cardboard and plastic. Solar Stik™ manufactures a product that uses solar as a power generator that can be used in a wide range of applications.

During the demonstration at the Pentagon, the Saint Augustine, Florida-based company was using The Solar Stik™ Breeze (pictured next to the Hexayurt), which according to the company's website is the first truly portable hybrid solar and wind power generator, to provide electricity to a number of generators to run electronic equipment (laptops) and a satellite system.

Although these technologies may have been designed primarily for military use or humanitarian crises, their applications could provide solutions in the developing world to support a broader sustainable social and economic strategy.

For any sustainable social and economic development strategy to have a chance of succeeding, it must have the collaboration of the private sector, civil society, and government stakeholders. With adequate financial and logistical support, STAR-TIDES could make a difference to people worldwide facing the challenges of surviving a one-time natural disaster or the daily constraints of poverty.

Fred W. Baker III with the American Forces Press Service provides additional information about the STAR-TIDES demonstration on his article entitled, "Network Works to Help Interagency Crisis Response."

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

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