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RSK shelter preparedness training                Myanmar delta village 2016


emergency Reciprocal frame Shelter Kit (RSK)

The RSK emergency shelter kit provides  an opportunity for communities at risk to prepare  for  recurring hazards such as annual flash flooding.

This 9 pole frame costs less then USD$5 making it affordable for the poorest communities. In an emergency we have shown that even the weaker fresh cut green bamboo can be used for the frame, and how the roof frame can be thatched with palm leaves if a tarpaulin is not available.


No special skills are  required and the kit can be prepared using only a machete or a saw.  


Kits that are stored carefully and treated using traditional methods  of preservation can last for many years.  Eventually they can be recycled for use as livestock shelters or fuel.


The emergency RSK provides practical features, some of which are unique to this shelter, that empower communities and individual families to prepare and respond to these recurring hazards.


The complete bamboo frame shelter kit uses only 9 poles making it compact for storage, lightweight and easily carried.



The RSK frame uses only 3 different lengths of bamboo. No special skills are needed for assembly and joints are simply cross lashed so that all family members can assist. It can be rapidly erected or disassembled in less than 45 minutes


Its load bearing reciprocal frame roof is capable of being thatched if tarpauilns are not avalable. The frame can also support wooden planks and make use of other salvaged materials for insulation if needed.



The RSK can be pitched on sloping ground that is unsuitable for tents.


In very severe storms the wind profile of the RSK shelter can be lowered within minutes. 



This shelter uses 33% less bamboo than any equivalent shelter. By being able to use loaclly grown fresh cut bamboo it is an affordable asset for even the poorest communities in an emergency. 


The RSK shelter kit makes it easier for families to rapidly move to higher ground and build their own shelter. ​Understandably in floods there is often a reluctance for families to move until it is absolutely necessary. It is this delay that can put the most vulnerable, particularly the elderly and children, in greater danger. By facilitating the ability of a family to move quickly and erect a strong shelter in less than one hour, the risk of this hazard can be reduced. 


 a 9 pole emergency shelter kit

How the RSK can assist flood preparedness programs.

Communities at high risk of floods can be given the option to stockpile RSK shelter kits and to distribute them when an Early Warning System (EWS) indicates that floods are imminent. The instructions required to erect and use these shelters are minimal and can be completed in a 15 minute demonstration. Families should be encouraged to practise in advance the basic assembly skills required and also learn how to use the kit's bamboo poles with the tarpaulin to make a stretcher.


Although most landslides occur in mountainous terrain it is extremely difficult to predict exactly where they are going to occur and therefore, unlike for floods, an EWS is generally ineffective. It is however becoming increasingly possible to identify landslide prone areas  at times of heavy or prolonged rain. Multiple factors including steepness of slopes,  geography (notably water courses), road construction and local agricultural practice combine to give an indication of areas that are at a higher risk of landslides. It is for  communities living, often out of necessity, in these remote higher risk areas that the special features of the RSK can provide assistance.

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a landslide cuts through a community in Ecuador. Photo. S.Halbert

How the RSK can assist landslide preparedness programs

Stockpiling RSK kits in communities living at high risk of landslides has distinct advantages.

a). After heavy rains the situation may reach a "critical" level of landslide risk and to remain in individual dwellings becomes increasingly dangerous. Critical indicators include the start of localised land slippage

(including roads) and watercourses cutting increasingly dangerous erosion pathways through and around dwellings. Advanced evacuation from these dwellings at very short notice is now made possible by having an RSK kit.

b). In the event of a landslide the RSK provides families with the mobility to rapidly build a safe shelter in difficult terrain that has not previously been possible. This is particularly applicable to remote locations where the normal evacuation plans to move to municipal buildings or distant sites are not an option. 

c). If a community was  hit by a landslide in a remote location it would also be better equipped to respond by making good use of the contents of RSK kits that had been prepositioned. Not only for making emergency shelters and stretchers, but also using the same poles to build temporary ancillary medical modular RSK units.

The Urban RSK is a bamboo shelter kit that is designed to be freestanding on concrete for urban disasters, especially earthquakes, where traditional shelter structures are difficult to erect.

Urban RSK shelter

Urban RSK opened up.      Photo. S.Halbert

It consists of two reciprocal frame roof frames inclined against each other and lashed to two props. The additional two base frame bamboo poles provide the required stability. Earth bags are placed on top of the two lower frame members and two heavy guy ropes attached to earth bags on each side complete the shelter.

How the urban RSK can assist earthquake preparedness programs.

The Urban RSK uses the same bamboo poles as the emergency RSK. Having interchangeable poles for these two types shelters is a great advantage for more remote settlements. It means that communities that have stockpiled RSK kits to prepare for floods and landslides can now use the same kits for assembling Urban RSKs. 

Urbam RSK shelter kits can now be stored at strategic locations in any city in preparation for an earthquake.

Not only do these shelters provide immediate shelter for families during the aftershocks,  they can also provide temporary shelter for families that want to oversee their damaged dwelling during the rebuild phase. 

The urban shelter roof frame can be elevated on one side using  existing stones and masonry or make use of low damaged walls.


Families can easily upgrade their emergency RSK shelter to the improved living space of the standard RSK. This is because both these shelters use the same roof frame.

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Standard single RSK

The single and double standard RSK shelters have distinct health benefits, particularly improved ventilation, and can be used to provide dignified shelter while families rebuild their dwellings.

The ability to be able to build strong and highly versatile RSK shelters at times of floods, landslides or earthquakes using minimal bamboo and without any special skills can be a potentially life saving asset for remote communities. 

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