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Open and free blueprints for disaster response: Compact Modular Emergency Boxes

Make disaster preparedness no longer the exclusive domain of the already prepared.

Photo of Verena Lauble
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Together with communities in Nepal we plan to develop an emergency response system for remote areas that involves an idea our organization Cadus started to develop recently: Modular Emergency Boxes which consider local resources, are durable and repairable. These carry emergency equipment and can be transported over land, water, and by air drop. The boxes will be developed as open source and the blueprints shared with other regions where emergency access is restricted. Nepali communities will be provided with access to professional knowledge about emergency response systems in highly industrialized countries. In combination with the necessary tools provided by Cadus, they can develop hacks to bridge this global preparedness-gap. During emergencies, the first hours are the most critical for saving lives, and first responders mostly come from the local community. They know their own needs and are experts of their own region, which is in humanitarian aid often underestimated. We want to enable these communities to develop their own disaster preparedness and create resilience. We furthermore facilitate exchange between different local experts of disaster response in remote communities (e.g. trackers). As the project advances, it will focus on sharing knowledge and skills horizontally among the different communities of Nepal (training multipliers), hereby creating a social mandate that such emergency response systems have in industrialized countries. We are hoping that this will build further bridges within the Nepali society which has for 10 years suffered from civil war, as well as from disappointment in the government which had promised to deal in a constructive manner with the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake. The aim is to build networks between emergency response professionals and remote communities, and among the communities themselves, while supporting them on their way to enhanced resilience, self-sufficiency, and greater social cohesion.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Nepal experiences annual flooding and landslides during the monsoon season. Major earthquakes such as the one in 2015 are expected to recur. Vulnerable and marginalized communities living in remote areas are greatly affected and do not have access to immediate relief services following these natural disasters. Due to the challenging Himalayan terrain, the use of the Mobile Box System to proactively train and equip local responders prior to these disasters would allow local communities to meet the immediate needs of those impacted. In addition to preparing communities for emergency response, the project will support and accelerate the development of community-based solutions for challenges and the sharing of skills and knowledge. This can lead to a greater social cohesion and a sustainable change towards a more just society in Nepal. Furthermore, all communities involved in this project are invited to learn from each other, which includes the context that Cadus comes from.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

International humanitarian aid reacts to disasters with standardized plans, brining a large amount of personnel and equipment into a zone of crisis for a limited amount of time. This approach often ignores capacities of local communities to define their own needs and to help themselves. Cadus on the other hand works directly with affected communities and enables them to apply already existing knowledge. Attention to their specific needs can result in an overall strengthened community in the long run. Cadus made this experience in Syria where we supported a local NGO in setting up an emergency response system that saved many lives. This motivated us to follow the same approach for Nepal. There, the attempt had been made before to prepare better for disaster but has never been followed through. Communities affected by the 2015 earthquake continue to be marginalized. By partnering with a Nepali NGO we are sharing our ideas, skills, and equipment with those who need them most urgently.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

CADUS e.V. develops and implements strategic and technical solutions (affordable, reparable, and open source) for emergency response in cooperation with local partners of communities affected by disaster and conflict, thereby acknowledging structural/political challenges and using its public voice to promote change and global solidarity. URL:

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Cadus seeks to answer to global challenges with creativity, cooperation and by learning from each other. In this spirit we built a mobile hospital that is currently deployed in Syria. This story inspired our Nepali partner to approach us and discuss the possibility of working on an emergency response system for remote communities. This personal encounter and the enthusiasm of our partner regarding working towards sustainable change for communities in Nepal inspired us to draft this project.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

By supporting the building of an emergency response system among remote communities we can bridge planet and prosperity. Through climate change environmental challenges are growing globally, and Nepal in particular experiences annual flooding whilst being at high risk for further earthquakes. In the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake the huge amount of external (financial) help did mostly not arrive in the affected communities due to administrative failures and corruption. These communities are today still marginalized and vulnerable. By approaching them directly to build their resilience we expect to facilitate prosperity. This needs to be done in a sustainable manner by considering social, cultural and environmental factors, and developing the project in accordance with those local requirements. Emergency response through air drop will, for example, spare the need to build new roads in order to better reach remote communities, which would further burden the planet.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Our implementing partner is the non-profit NGO Nepal Communitere. Their goal is to empower communities to take an active role in their renewal after the earthquake of 2015. In their resource center in Kathmandu the NGO seeks to connect Nepali and international groups to develop ideas for relief and sustainable renewal. We will be able to contribute materials and knowledge for the area of emergency response, enable through additional funding a wider range of communities to participate, and facilitate the empowerment of remote communities to self-sufficiently prepare for future emergencies. Our own organization seeks to work with local partners in all projects. In the past we have organized medical first responder trainings in North East Syria together with a local partner and are currently preparing to provide emergency relief with that same partner. While Cadus is the point of contact for the funding bodies, projects are developed and implemented together with our local partners.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

In Nepal there is a strong culture of helping each other. With the necessary funding it will be easy to bring people together, share skills, and work together for building a better future. First steps have been made by Nepal Communitere, and including more communities in this process is expected to be welcomed. There is rich knowledge about appropriate location-specific emergency response among the trackers, which can through our project be more widely shared among communities.

Geographic Focus

Nepal, in particular its remote areas. Concept can be used in other regions if successful.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

Months 1-2: assessment with local partners in Nepal Months 3-5: mobilizing resources internationally and in Nepal Months 6-11: building and testing boxes in conjunction with organizing skill shares and exchange of knowledge between communities and rescue technicians Months 12-17: Nepal-wide implementation of response system in conjunction with trainings within the communities Months: 18-24: Collecting feedback from users, adjusting response system as needed, further trainings

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Vicky S.

Your idea sounds amazing! Like you said, when disaster strikes, the locals are more likely to know and understand the immediate needs of their communities. Would these boxes be given out for free? Also, would demos and training be provided to the communities receiving this service for future emergencies?

Photo of Verena Lauble

Hello Vicky,
thanks for your comment. Since we are a non profit, non governmental organization we will provide the boxes for free. Providing training to the communities is a crucial part of the project. A comprehensive training program will ensure sutstainablility once the boxes are with the communities. We are already working with a big pool of volunteers specialized in the technical and medical field. These people already provided medical trainings in Syria with CADUS and are happy to extend this effort to other areas.

Photo of Janet Ilott

Hi, I found this project really interesting and wondered how easy it would be to adapt this idea to other countries and contexts (particularly as Haiti is so vulnerable to disasters). It was interesting to see that you are also working with Nepal Communitere. Will you be involved in coordination of air drops at all? There have been some problems with air drops here in Haiti specifically with regards to security, both in terms of security of organizational personnel and people in the receiving community.

Photo of Verena Lauble

Hi Janet,
indeed, our aim is to adapt this idea to other contexts. On the one hand the box system can be used in order to strengthen a community's emergency services but also its disaster preparedness. It is interesting that you mention Haiti. Actually, the first idea for the box system came from one team member. He was deployed with a big NGO in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. He was really unhappy with the work on the ground and the missing inovation within the humanitarian sector. This is one of the reasons why CADUS exists. The Emergency Boxes can also funtion as a opportunity to bring equipment which is needed directly after a disaster rapidly into these area. For example, with water filtration and hydraulic rescue. This equipment can also be brought into the region via airdrop after a catastrophe. Yes, we will work alongside Nepal Communitere to build relations to local partners who run helicopters. In cooperation with them we can start to build and equip the specific box system in accordance with the local capacity and bring them to the respective community. Additionally, we will send trainers to secure capacity building on the ground.

Photo of bikash gurung

Interesting idea Verena! It’s fantastic to see that your team has already ran a pilot of this initiative. And I am personally glad that you are partnering with Nepal communitere for this. We’d love to learn a bit more about which aspect of this proposal is new versus which aspects have already been piloted by your organization. In this Bridge Builders challenge, we’re particularly interested in uncovering innovative approaches to bridging peace, prosperity and planet.
We welcome all ideas in different stages of development. Specifying which aspect of your idea you haven’t tested would enable us to better support you on the OpenIDEO platform. Also, we would love to know how are you planning to implement the Airdrop? If you are planning to drop via Rotors or Fixed wing, Nepal particularly has a very strict rules regarding Drones, how are you planning to overcome that as well . Looking forward to learning more!

Photo of Verena Lauble

Hello Bikash, that are some great and important questions.
What is new with this proposal right now is the partnering with Nepal communitere. Up until now our pilot project was developed in Berlin in cooperation with a student specialized in product design. We developed a modular concept and a design which allows us to not only use the equipment inside the boxes but also the boxes itself for different purposes, such as a carrier for energy supply. In this way, the boxes itself become part of the whole concept and can be used in a sustainable manner.
What we do now is to develop - in cooperation with Nepal communitere - the equipment of the boxes needed in the region and a fitting training concept. Additionally, we are evaluating the material the boxes itself are made of and how we can use them besides the included equipment. What material is accessible, in order to make it repairable. What are the biggest needs in the community in order to establish a sustainable emergency system. For example, is additional energy or water supply needed that can be provided within the boxes itself.
By doing this we want to stress out the connection between prosperity and planet. Our aim is to strengthen resilience among all communities in a sustainable way while simultaneously creating more equality and therefore prosperity.
The OpenIDEO platform gives us the chance to get in contact to different people from different background and collect more innovative ideas to strengthen emergency services and civil protection facing different challenges. Defining concrete problems and working on solutions will help facing these challenges.
In order to implement the Airdrop, we have to adapt the capacities in the different regions. During our pilot phase we are using sport aircrafts. This type of aircrafts is most common all over the world and can use on small and remote airports. For Nepal we discussed the use of helicopters because this type of aircraft is easy accessible and can be applied to the natural conditions such as high mountains.

Photo of Lara Hager

Indeed, very interesting, Verena. Can you explain what you mean by "The boxes will be developed as open source" ? And what kind of items would be inside?
Great that you are using local resources and knowledge!

best wishes,

Photo of Verena Lauble

Hi Lara, thank you for your comment. What we mean by open source is, that all the bluebrints for the boxes will be published and accessable. Hereby, different communities and NGOs can use these blueprints to adap them to their specific needs. Hereby, communities all over the world get access to the ideas already developed. Experiences and possible problems can be shared and solved.
Up untill now we concentrate on equipment for technical rescue, such as rope rescue and hydraulic rescue as well as medical equipment to provide Pre Hospital Trauma Life Support.