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Recent floods have shown system deployment time should not be overlooked
Dry Floodproofing Main Img
Storms, climate change, natural disasters such as earthquakes, and even terrorism threats have exponentially elevated the risk of flood damage. In addition to the hurricanes and catastrophic events that make national headlines, flooding is happening somewhere in the United States every day (even in desert regions), caused by heavy rainfall, dam failures, land development runoff, drainage problems, or inland remnants of tropical storms. Nationwide, flooding is the leading cause of deaths related to severe weather. It also has a significant effect on businesses—according to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), almost 40 percent of small businesses never reopen their doors after a flood disaster.

The challenge of traditional flood-protection solutions
Until now, buildings located in flood-prone areas have only had a few flood-protection options. Historically, the most common has been the stop-log system—an assembly of vertical, slotted posts holding stacks of horizontal rectangular ‘logs’ that can be erected to form a barrier around the building or its critical doorways and openings. The most significant issue with stop logs (and similar aluminum-sheet barricades) is storage. The materials must be kept either onsite in what could otherwise be valuable, revenue-generating space, or stored offsite, often at some distance from the building they are intended to protect. It can take a week or more to retrieve the truckloads of materials for erecting a barrier around the perimeter of a typical commercial or government building.

For weather-related events, this can mean having to decide whether or not to deploy before forecast models have reached a consensus about storm paths and severity. Deploying unnecessarily is expensive, but hesitating can be catastrophic. Further, because of the unpredictable nature of earthquakes or dam breaks, or terror-related acts that can cause flooding, it can be virtually impossible to retrieve and erect a stop-log or barricade system in time.

The need for quick-deployment solutions Recognizing the weaknesses in existing flood-mitigation technology, new dry floodproofing technology has emerged in the form of flexible barriers that offer versatility and resiliency. This new concept of using soft goods as opposed to hard materials allows for a system that offers full protection with equipment that can be stored in place and deployed rapidly by building maintenance or security staff.

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Design objectives for this new technology were established after a careful analysis of available systems. They include:
  • point-of-use storage to allow the facility to stay open until the last possible moment, and reopen faster for better business continuity;
  • quick-deployment architecture to ensure minimal setup times;
  • low maintenance based on minimal mechanical complexity;
  • high reliability, proven via simple designs and robust construction;
  • lightweight materials to facilitate safe, rapid manual operation;
  • conformal materials adaptable to any opening; and
  • scalability (i.e. easily sized and configured to structural profile and expected loading).
Flood-mitigation products have various application points, including:
  • building entrances;
  • stairwells;
  • doors;
  • below-grade window wells;
  • ventilation shafts;
  • intake/exhaust openings;
  • parking garage portals;
  • loading dock portals;
  • emergency exits; and
  • rail and vehicular tunnel portals.

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    The new solutions addressing these points include flexible walls, gates, covers, and plugs. Together, these ‘soft’ systems represent an advanced structural technology that can meet the resiliency needs of government and commercial buildings and infrastructure worldwide.

    For commercial and government buildings, the most commonly used option for this new technology is the flexible wall barrier. It uses a flexible Kevlar® composite woven into an extremely tough mesh fabric with a polyurethane-coated nylon to serve as the water barrier retention layer.

    Although the flexible wall barrier is supported by rugged structural members, its soft-goods base means the system can be deployed easily by one or two people, often in a matter of minutes. Even a full-perimeter, 2.5-m (8-ft) flexible wall barrier can be erected around a typical commercial building in a matter of a few hours, because all materials are stored at the point of use and only have to be extended and locked in place.

    Once conditions are safe, the flexible wall systems can be stowed as efficiently as they are deployed. After a flood, resumption of normal operation can be expected in hours or a day or two, depending on cleanup requirements—rather than the days or weeks required to clean, dismantle, and cart the components of stop-log or aluminum-plate systems to storage facilities. If no flooding occurs, the flexible wall stows quickly and normal operations can usually be resumed in the same amount of time required to deploy.


    The flexible wall barrier system allows this because it is typically installed in a horizontal trench just below grade, an embedment in a wall, or in a vertical container installed at the side of a doorway or portal opening. As the wall material is flexible, it can be packed into a small container. For instance, the flexible barrier portion of a 2.5-m vertical wall fits in a space just 200 x 200 mm (8 x 8 in.). Total trench cross-section, then, can be that small space for the wall, plus enough additional room for the flat-lying support posts.

    With such small size, the flexible wall barrier system requires minimal infrastructure modification for installation. The flexible wall can be scaled in height and length to fit any application. Since it is self-contained, no special tools or training are required.

    Conclusion: Recent floods have shown the importance of deployment time for infrastructure flood-protection systems. The devastating damage and economic loss totals, as well as the loss of life, from Hurricane Sandy demonstrated current floodproofing techniques are useless when not deployed in time.

    The traditional systems employing solid metal barriers or logs require massive storage space and extensive setup and deployment time. The dry floodproofing concept, on the other hand, relies on flexible, soft goods stored at the point of use. It also deploys and retracts rapidly with minimal labor. By addressing these issues with traditional floodproofing, it may be the solution building owners, architects, and builders never knew they needed.
    Plans Dept Video

    click on the play button to view video

    Smart Vent's "Plans Review Division" will make sure your project is compliant with all FEMA and NFIP regulations, ICC Building Codes, as well as receiving the lowest flood insurance premium possible for your clients.

    Watch our quick 1-minute video
    explaining what the Plans Review Division can do for you.
    1. Our team of Certified Floodplain Managers will customize a Dry and/or Wet Floodproofing solution to your residential or non-residential plans.

    2. We will make sure your project is compliant with all FEMA and NFIP regulations, and is receiving the lowest possible flood insurance premium.

    3. We have CAD, BIM, REVIT, and SketchUp files available for download online - access through the Important Links toolbar to the right.

    4. Schedule a Lunch & Learn or Webinar (1 HSW) with a member of our team , and have your plans reviewed prior to your session.
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    IMPORTANT Links:


    click to view: January 2017 issue of Architectural Record (pg.44)
    For Smart Vent's Latest White Paper, email
    More Information on Dry Floodproofing Products can be found in the links below:
    • Vertically and Side Deployed Flex-Wall™ • Portal Flex-Gate™ • Flex-Cover™
    • Resilient Tunnel Plug (RTP) • Stairwell Flex-Gate™  

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