What a relief - Issue 31 - Magazine | Monocle

thumbnail text

Every disaster is fraught with its own unique logistical and political challenges. And the United Nations, individual governments and NGOs all have teams of professionals all over the world ready to respond within hours.

But what about a permanent international force that could be airborne in an hour? A first response team that could tackle both natural disasters and terrorist attacks? With so many nations looking for alternatives to displays of hard power, Monocle reckons it’s high time for a heavily equipped, highly trained force for immediate global emergency intervention. Here’s an inventory of what needs to be in its arsenal.


Instant shelter

Concrete Canvas, a small Welsh firm, has developed an award-winning “building in a bag” called the Concrete Canvas Shelter (CCS). It works like plaster of Paris and consists of canvas strips impregnated with concrete, which two people can shape into secure, weatherproof shelters in two hours.


Water purification

After medical attention, the second biggest requirement in disaster situations is drinking water. Germany’s Kärcher Futuretech has developed a plan for a mobile purification kit that fits into an air-conditioned 20ft ISO container. It can produce 240,000 litres of bacteria and virus-free water a day.



If you need to get supplies somewhere quickly, you need a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III. They can carry 72 tonnes for 2,500 nautical miles at three quarters of the speed of sound without refuelling. Once there, the C-17 can even land on austere, rough airfields or simply push the stores out the back and drop them by parachute.


Chemical lights

The glow sticks beloved of ravers in the 1990s are put in the shade by western armed forces’ ubiquitous Cyalume ChemLights. These little tubes are the modern equivalent of the hurricane lamp and come in a variety of shades – usually bilious green – providing up to 12 hours of waterproof light.


Solar poncho

Armed forces always arrive with enough portable generators to light a city, but they also have innovative ideas away from base. The United States Marine Corps, for example, is currently trialling a fold-up poncho lined with photovoltaic cells to recharge radios with solar power.


Megaray torch

If you need a torch, you may as well have the brightest handheld on the market – the military-spec Megaray MR175. It’s fairly heavy, at 7.4kg, but its powerful 11 million candela xenon bulb and lens combination lets you see things up to 3km away for 100 minutes between battery charges.


Amphibious ships

Amphibious assault ships are designed to carry stores, offload marines in difficult conditions, then rapidly retrieve them and treat the wounded – which makes them ideal for disaster relief. The Danish Navy’s Absalon class can deliver 900 cubic metres of cargo and run a 40-bed floating hospital.


Rough terrain vehicle

The British Army has the biggest humanitarian assistance/disaster relief multitool of them all in the shape of its new Titan engineer vehicle. This 64.5-tonne leviathan is based on a go-anywhere Challenger tank chassis, but fitted with a bulldozer blade and a folding bridge, spanning 26m, mounted on top.


Satellite phone

It looks like a massive beach ball, but it is an inflatable satellite terminal and antenna that provides a high-bandwidth internet connection. Built by US-based GATR Technologies, the $100,000 satellite communication terminal made of resin-impregnated cloth is lightweight, easy to transport, and can be set up within hours.


Hospital in a box

EADS’ TransHospital is one of the most popular western mobile hospitals. Made of hard-shelled containers and inflatable tents, the TransHospital consists of interlocking self-sufficient modules with power, temperature control and the tools to carry out the most complex operations, no matter what the conditions are outside.

Share on:






Go back: Contents



sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio


  • The Entrepreneurs