Central Florida invention helps disaster victims

Rapidly deployable temporary housing sets up in minutes


LONGWOOD, Fla. – After Hurricane Andrew, thousands of Miami residents were forced to live in tent cities set up by the federal government when their homes were destroyed by the powerful storm.

After Hurricanes Charley and Katrina, FEMA built temporary trailers to house storm victims.

But now FEMA might be utilizing a different product to help damaged areas recover. It's called Safehut and it was invented and is being manufactured in Central Florida.

David Smith, a luxury boat builder, sketched out the concept of a secure housing unit on a cocktail napkin in the weeks and months after Hurricane Andrew.

That sketch would become what is now known as Safehut, which stands for Space Age Emergency Housing Unit. 

At the company's modest manufacturing facility, the structures laid collapsed and stacked on top of each other. Utilizing a small motorized lift that will be sold with the units, workers were able to fold up the walls and drop and secure the roof in place within minutes.

The units also come with electricity and plumbing integrated inside. Folding cabinetry and fixtures is also sold with the units, which makes the housing fully functional within a few hours.

Safehut can plug right into an electrical grid or run off a generator and comes with central air conditioning.

"His idea was to create something that could be stored and go up fast like a tent, but give people some safety as well," said Sarah Smith, the inventor's daughter and now Vice President of Safehut, Inc.

Sarah and her brother Eric are tasked with getting their father's invention out into the world because the elder Smith passed away shortly after the first prototype unit was completed.

She said they are already partnering with island nations like the Bahamas that don't have a lot of storage space but are prone to natural disasters.

According to the company's website, 15 Safehuts can be stacked in a warehouse and a stack of seven of them on top each other is only nine feet tall.

Smith said the company is in the process of finding a bigger manufacturing space as they contract with more states, countries, agencies and businesses.

The expansion should bring jobs to Central Florida because the Smiths do not intend to set up shop elsewhere.

While the product was conceptualized for use after a disaster scenario, the sales team is also marketing towards businesses for temporary office space as well as individuals for recreational activities like ice fishing and hunting.