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How alternative sandbags improve flood protection

For many years, traditional sandbags using hessian sacks have often been the most popular method of preventing flood water from entering and inundating properties or an area of land. However, over time, alternative sandbags have now been developed and identified as a better substitute for traditional sandbags.

Even though traditional sandbags are cheap, and can prevent flood water from entering areas for short periods of time, there are also some negative aspects of using them. They are relatively easy to obtain, but at the time of a flood event, demand may exceed supply at your local builder’s merchants.  Due to the weight of traditional sandbags, they can be very difficult to handle. A pre-filled traditional sandbag can weigh around 13kg, so they can be difficult to transport unless you have a car or can pay for delivery. The hessian sacks are biodegradable and can rot if they are left in the same position for long periods of time.

It is important to be aware that there is no statutory obligation or duty for local authorities to provide sandbags during a flood event. Some people may expect their council to do an area drop of sandbags, but this is not always the case. Some councils do have a sandbag policy and will deliver them, but they don’t have to and they may not have any when needed. Therefore it would be a good idea to invest in your own and make your own provisions, especially if you live in a flood risk area.

Traditional sandbags


Alternative sandbags – what are they and how do they work?

A range of alternative sandbags are now available to purchase in preparation for a flood. They have many advantages over traditional sandbags and have found to be more effective at protecting against flooding.

Some alternative sandbags are filled with a gel substance which moulds to gaps and available space, creating a better seal than traditional sandbags. They can be applied in small strips and act as a water tight seal around windows and door frames, or applied as large strips and act as barriers to divert flowing water during a flood.

The HydroSack by Gravitas International

They are lightweight and easy to store and deploy, so are very useful in a flash flood event. Once the alternative sandbags are put in the appropriate place, it is important to wet them so that they are weighted down and can act as a barrier. Some types of alternative sandbags can absorb approximately 20 litres of water.

After the flood event has occurred, alternative sandbags can be hosed clean, stored externally for six months and reused, as long as they are not contaminated with sewage water. When it’s time to dispose of them, they can be placed in the garden and split open, as the gel within the alternative sandbags will biodegrade into the soil.

The Hydrosnake by Gravitas International

Examples of alternative sand bags include:

If your home or business is located in an area at risk of flooding, then purchasing alternative sandbags would be a useful and beneficial investment. It is essential that members of your family or fellow employees are aware of their location and how to deploy them. As they are light weight, it is also much easier for children and the elderly to deploy these if needed.

There are also a variety of other different resistance and resilience measures which can be put in place to reduce your flood risk, such as flood barriers, flood doors, and non-return valves. It is important to plan and prepare for a flood event in advance and be aware of your flood risk. Further information regarding planning and preparing for floods can be found on our resources page.

Please download our alternative sandbags resource here.


Sources used: UK Flood Defence Alliance, Floodsax

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