Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sandbags ineffective compared with alternatives, say flooding experts

James Meikel in the Guardian (UK): They may evoke a wartime spirit, and are ubiquitous props to keep the dreaded floodwater away, and the army and two royal princes may have been lugging them along the Thames Valley, but sandbags are relatively ineffective when it comes to protecting homes compared with more modern, if sometimes expensive, alternatives, according to the Environment Agency and other experts.

"For the individual house, I think they are a waste of space," says Mary Dhonau, who runs her own consultancy company on flooding, and chairs the Flood Protection Association, an industry body of manufacturers and installers. "I am also worried about disposal. They will be very contaminated."

Dhonau says water-resistant barriers and doors, self-sealing airbricks, and airbrick covers and other measures are better value in the long run. The Environment Agency also has reservations about sandbags. They can keep out water for short periods, filter out muddy sediments and are cheap, it says. But they are heavy, awkward to carry and seep water even when well-stacked. While pillow cases or refuse sacks filled with earth may be an emergency alternative, purpose-made flood protection equipment is more reliable, it adds.

If the property could flood through the ground, water pumps could be the best protection, though they need regular maintenance. Non-return valves on drains and waterpipes, landscaped gardens, water-resistant or varnished skirting boards, tiles and rugs rather than fitted carpets and high-mounted shelves are all recommended....

Jocelyn Augustino of FEMA took this shot of Missouri residents making sandbags for a 2008 flood

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