While the rest of us watched in horror as tens of thousands died in the tsunamis of 2004 and 2011, two Seattle aerospace designers felt compelled to build a shelter that could protect people from such devastating natural disasters. Since 2011, Julian Sharpe and Scott Hill have actively developed Survival Capsule, a range of pod-like disaster shelters for between two and ten people. While the pair are at pains to note that evacuating is the best plan in such an emergency, the capsules are particularly intended for the very young, the elderly and the infirm who cannot so readily escape.
The Survival Capsules are designed as a last-resort measure, to be placed in schools, public buildings and private dwellings where occupants may be at most risk of not being able to escape a natural disaster. The watertight capsules can float free or be tethered to a location via a cable, which is designed to release if the capsule is in danger of being trapped underwater. The capsules also have a one-hour oxygen supply that can get occupants through periods of total submersion, and they have storage space for water and supplies for up to five days so occupants can survive in a disaster zone until help arrives.
However, the Survival Capsule’s most notable point of difference from its competitors is its aircraft-grade aluminium casing. As Sharpe says, “The capsule is similar to an aircraft—it has to maintain its structural integrity … You can’t afford failure.” The metal is able to absorb or deflect water-borne objects travelling at up to 75 mph, whereas more common fiberglass designs can crack or be penetrated by fast-moving sharp objects. The capsules are fireproof too; the metal casing doesn’t warp, melt or off-gas like plastics and fiberglass, and the interior is lined with a ceramic thermal blanket that prevents the occupants from effectively being baked inside the unit in case of an external fire.
Survival Capsules won a top 10 place in the the 2011 NASA Tech Brief Innovation Contest. In addition to tsunamis, it is envisioned the capsules could protect people in the event of tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and storm surges. Sharpe, Hill and business partner Eddie Bernard, a tsunami expert, recently traveled throughout Japan visiting disaster-preparedness expos and taking orders. The capsules are available for pre-order through the company’s website, with prices starting at $10,000 for the two-person model.
Photos by Survival Capsule