top of page

emergency Reciprocal frame Shelter Kit (RSK)


 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. These features include:

The following proposals aim to support and enhance the efficiency of existing national disaster risk reduction (DRR) programs by describing the potential use of an innovative shelter kit, the RSK, in three types of emergency.

The following proposals aim to support existing disaster risk reduction (DRR) programs by describing the potential use of an innovative shelter kit, the RSK, in three types of emergency.


9 pole Shelter Kit (RSK)

How the RSK can assist flood preparedness programs.

Communities at high risk of floods could 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 inffective. It is however 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  communities living, often out of necessity, in these remote higher risk areas that the RSK can target its assistance.

Ecuador 2008 188.jpg

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

How the RSK can assist landslide preparedness programs.

Sites that are considered less of a landslide risk and are close to communities living at high risk of landslides are first identified in advance. These sites can then be used for temporary local evacuation using RSK shelter kits when the situation reaches  a "critical" risk level for landslides. Critical indicators include the start of localised land slippage ( including roads) and watercourses cutting increasingly dangerous erosion pathways through and around dwellings. This local temporary evacuation has not until now been a practical option, especially in remote regions. The mobility, speed of response and cost efficiency of the RSK has now made this possible.

If a community was  hit by a landslide where RSK kits had been prepositioned it would also be very well equipped to respond with using stretchers made from this kit, building shelters for survivors and making use of RSK upgrades that can provide temporary ancillary medical modular 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 2 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. 


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.

FRONT 1.jpg

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 to remote communities. 

The role of Reciprocal frame Shelter Kits (RSKs) in the  COVID-19 pandemic

RSK shelter kits  can greatly assist communities to prepare and  rapidly respond to the pandemic.

In the COVID -19  pandemic achieving effective isolation can be particularly difficult in poorer overcrowded communities or displaced families living in camps.  Makeshift shelters are often erected side by side with little attention to ventilation, and this results in shared airspaces that increase virus transmission.

The unique features of the emergency RSK shelter kits make them especially suitable to achieve temporary practical distancing of individuals  or whole families.

The lightweight  kits are strong and highly efficient, using 33% less bamboo than any equivalent shelter. The roof frames of the RSK use only 2 lengths of a bamboo that are simply lashed together on the ground, thereby enabling any family to rapidly make their own shelter.


The standard elevated RSK shelter kits provide communities with two further advantages in the pandemic.  Their improved ventilation  can potentially reduce  coronavirus transmission, and their modular structure enables the rapid erection of temporary isolation wards  and other ancillary medical units. 

The emergency RSK shelter kit

A 9 pole kit that can be assembled in less than 1 hour

Providing the ability to physically distance or  isolate in rural  terrain.

This shelter can be used for temporary 14 day isolation of a family  or individuals where the objective is to keep the family unit together in the event of an individual family member becoming infected or exposed to coronavirus.


It can be  easily partitioned to create two separate main ventilation apertures to facilitate isolation of individuals within a family if required. Unlike an “A” frame tent the lower edge of the roof frame can be lifted off the ground if additional ventilation is required.

If temporary isolation has to be prolonged, the same roof frame can be used to upgrade this shelter to the standard (elevated) RSK shelter unit.

In an absolute emergency and where tarpaulins may not be immediately available, the roof frame can be thatched with palm leaves or support wooden planks or other available materials.

The urban double RSK

A 17 pole freestanding shelter kit

Designed for urban disasters, particularly earthquakes,  this is a shelter that can be freestanding on concrete and does not require support posts to be sunk in the ground . These advantages make it particularly suitable for providing COVID-19 physical distancing  and isolation options in overcrowded urban settlements.

Providing the ability to physically distance or isolate in urban terrain

The standard RSK shelter

9 pole Shelter Kit (RSK)

A 12 pole standard RSK shelter kit 

Combining the mobility and practical features of the emergency RSKs  for temporary isolation, with additional ventilation and modular options.

Improving ventilation in shelters  is recognised as important to help reduce transmission of respiratory viruses including COVID-19. In traditional temporary shelters a bamboo lattice roof  attaches directly to the side beams of the shelter making it difficult to create a ventilation gap at eaves level. This is in contrast to the RSK where the attachment of the roof tarpaulin along the side beams is uninterrupted along its length, making it easier for the family to create  “through ventilation” at eaves level.


By the addition of two more lengths of bamboo to create a separate attachment point for the top of the wall tarpaulin, the ventilation can also be adjusted by the family as required.   

The standard double RSK shelter kit
Double elevated.jpg

A 22 pole standard RSK shelter kit  

Adjustable through ventilation at eaves level


Temporary isolation for the larger family. 

Adjustable through ventilation at eaves level

Modular  RSK shelter units 
(open sides)

A 41 pole 4 unit RSK module

Facilitating social distancing by providing  temporary sheltered space.

Two standard double RSKs combine to make a large covered temporary reception space. In the pandemic these units can be very rapidly erected and  used for temporary screening units or any situation where larger covered but well ventilated waiting areas are required. Additional units can be added  very quickly in response to rapidly changing needs and partitions can be hung from the roof frames to further enhance  social distancing if needed. 

Modular RSK shelter units
( enclosed sides)

Each of these 4 unit shelters can provide a temporary isolation ward for up to 6 beds.

Additional units can be added to make larger wards as required

Cleaning and disinfection
advantages of the RSK

Inside the RSK shelter

The RSK ceiling is much easier to clean and disinfect.


Social and physical distancing are some of the main methods we use to help control the spread of coronavirus.


The cost effectiveness and efficiency of RSK shelters mean we can now extend this method to vulnerable communities and achieve temporary isolation for both individuals and families.


The improved ventilation of the RSK can also potentially assist in reducing the transmission of coronavirus in overcrowded living conditions, especially in refugee camps.


Refugee camps are at high risk of severe storm or cyclone damage.  The ability to rapidly erect thousands of emergency RSK shelters would be an effective  means of achieving effective social distancing for families at this very vulnerable time.


RSK Shelter

Winner of the Aidex

 innovation award

Brussels 2015.

Shaun Halbert

Director RSK Shelter Charity

bottom of page