Know Why Sandbags are not Enough as Flood Protection


Andreas Klippe 1 response February 23, 2021

Sandbags set up at the entrance of a school

Let’s take a snapshot of this scenario.

Typhoon strikes as rainwater pours out heavily. As water level rises, threats of flood are already coming. People are already busy finding ways to save their lives and properties. Some evacuate, some bring their belongings onto the second floor of the house, and some, pack sands into bags. 

One of the first lines of defense is sandbagging. Sandbags are the cheapest and easiest available flood protection that have been used since time immemorial. The problem is they are not efficient enough to combat our emerging flood problems.

There are a number of reasons why sandbags are not efficient as flood solutions: 1) they need an extreme work process, 2) they are not durable, and 3) they are still prone to leakage.

Let’s dig a little deeper on the three reasons why sandbags are not enough for flood protection.

SANDBAGS CAN EXHAUST YOU

People are all working to pack and put sandbags in front of the school.

First of all, sandbagging requires an extreme work process — it is a really tiring process. Actually, people who have been using this traditional flood solution know that hard work is required when purchasing and packing these sandbags. 

Just imagine, after you purchase the supplies needed for sandbagging, you need to fill in the sacks with sand. Depending on the number of sacks you need, the purchasing and the packing will surely consume a lot of your time. Afterwards, you need to put all of these sacks properly and that will take another set of hours. 

With all of these workloads, we really need a lot of people to work on these sandbags. How can we purchase, pack and put all of these sandbags without people?

And mind you, we do not just need people — we need skilled and fast-moving people. Since calamity preparedness is a matter of time, skilled and fast-moving people are highly needed to do the job quicker and more efficiently.

Since calamity preparedness is a matter of time,skilled and fast-moving people are highly needed to do the job quicker and more efficiently.

After a thousand hours of all these laborious works, you’re set! Now you have ready-to-use sandbags, very tired people and inefficient flood protection!

SANDBAGS ARE NEVER ENOUGH

Due to water pressure, sandbags were being damaged.

Another problem with sandbags is that they are not durable. Let me explain why. 

The bags used in sandbags are either made of Burlap or Polypropylene. Burlap bags are made up of natural fibers while Polypropylene is a type of plastic. 

Here’s the catch. Either of the two are prone to damage. The Burlap biodegradable bag will gradually deteriorate, especially if it is exposed to direct sunlight. Meanwhile, the Polypropylene bag will be shredded into pieces after a period of time. If the material used in sandbags can easily deteriorate, the lifespan can also be an issue. According to Dayton Bag & Burlap, both of these bags may only last up to 8 months to 1 year depending on its exposure to extreme sunlight.

Made of Burlap or Polypropylene, the reality is heavy rains, strong typhoons, flash floods, and even sunlight can easily destroy these sandbags. Because of cheap materials, they cannot resist the strong water pressure of floodwaters.

Regardless if the sandbags are made of Burlap or Polypropylene, the reality is heavy rains, strong typhoons, flash floods, and even sunlight can easily destroy them. Because of cheap materials, the bags cannot resist the strong water pressure of floodwaters.

SANDBAGS ARE STILL PRONE TO LEAKING

Even with sandbags, water leaks inside the school

Now, take a look at this picture that can speak for itself. After a ton of time and hard work put into the purchasing and the packing of the sandbags, it still pictures failure because of water leakage. Frustrating, isn’t it?

Clearly, sandbagging cannot really prevent floodwaters. Eventually, water will leak under and through the sandbags. The pressure of the floodwaters and some debris can put holes on them. As a result, soil and other tiny particles that are inside the sandbags can escape through the seams. These openings will make way for more water to leak. 

The result? More water may pass through the sandbags and floodwaters will now enter your houses, offices, and other establishments.

FLOOD BARRIERS: ANOTHER SOLUTION

Sandbagging is just a band-aid solution to the worsening flood situations in the Philippines and to the whole world. Lives and properties are at stake when there is flooding. We need to save lives by preventing and solving this problem. Unfortunately, we cannot save lives by providing temporary and cheaper solutions. Sandbags might be cheap in production, but it can still be costly considering its inefficiency. Our lives and our properties are more valuable than anything else.

Sandbags might be cheap in production, but it can be costly considering its inefficiency. Our lives and our properties are more valuable than anything else.

RS Lift-Hinged Flood Gates set up to protect properties against flood

What we need is a long term solution. Unlike sandbags, flood barriers are really efficient to prevent floods. They are easy to assemble, especially during times of unexpected floods. Even a single person can open a flood door or flood gate  when flood strikes. 

Moreover, the durability of these flood barriers is proven to have a lifespan of more than 50 years and counting. They are made of marine-grade aluminum, stainless, or hot-dipped galvanized steel. These barriers can resist temperatures below 0 degrees celsius, even extreme sunlight and temperatures up to 80 degrees celsius. 

Another one, water leakage will not be possible with these flood barriers. These barriers have “Quality Made in Germany” seals to block the passage of water. For instance, RS Demountable Flood Barriers have three seals for total flood protection: 

  1. First, the base seal that is put between the demountable beam and the ground.
  2. Then, the bead seal that seals the horizontal flood panels.
  3. Lastly, the vertical seal that is used to seal the side channel and the aluminum barriers. 

German-made flood barriers are modern solutions against flooding. Why will we settle for less? Yes, sandbags tell you they might work but they will not be enough in reality and protect your home, garage, building, or garden. Let’s invest now in a better solution and save lives later! 

To learn more about the latest flood protection technology, subscribe now to our Flood Expert Tips (IF YOU HAVEN’T YET!). Stay safe and flood-free!

Andreas Klippe

About the author

Andreas Klippe is founder of the Asian Center for Flood Control located in Clark Freeport Zone, Philippines.

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