29 May 2003
A 21st Century alternative to the humble sandbag is being showcased this week as the first flood protection products to pass rigorous new standards are named.
The UK has pioneered the world's first quality standard for temporary barriers and household products designed to protect individual homes and small communities from floodwaters.
There are more than 100 varieties on the market but until now there has been little independent information about them and no standard to measure their performance.
Now the Environment Agency and has teamed up with specialist research company HR Wallingford to develop a certification scheme that is supported by the British Standards Institution. Suitable products are awarded a BSI Kitemark, a well-known quality standard for consumer goods.
The first products to win the coveted BSI Kitemark are 'Floodguard' and 'Floodgate' both flood boards and 'Pallet Barrier'.
Sir John Harman, Chairman of the Environment Agency said: "There are dozens of flood protection devices on the market but buyers have been in the dark about the standard of their performance until now.
"The use of Kitemarked flood protection products alone will not make a building 'flood proof' as water can sometimes enter through walls and floors.
"However, correctly fitted, these products have the ability to reduce the rate at which water enters a property and will give householders more time to move their family and possessions to safety.
"These products are the 21st Century alternatives to sandbags."
Under a £600,000 pilot scheme funded by Defra, some of these products are to be trialled at flood-vulnerable areas in the Midlands.
Elliot Morley, Minister for Flooding, said: "Permanent flood defences have traditionally been seen as the answer to flood protection.
"But there are many places and situations where permanent structures are not viable or appropriate on cost, environmental or other grounds
"This has led to increasing interest in temporary solutions - from door boards and airbrick covers to flexible barriers, which surround whole communities in the event of a flood.
"I am pleased that Defra is able to fund a pilot scheme in the Midlands and look forward to the views of local people and groups on their effectiveness."
The Kitemarked devices have been tested in a purpose-built rig at HR Wallingford's laboratories in Oxfordshire. The rig incorporates a row of terrace house 'fronts' complete with doors, windows, patio doors and airbricks, and a wave machine for realistic testing.
The facility can also test temporary freestanding devices such as barriers and tubes.
The products have also been subjected to a factory test to ensure consistent manufacturing standards.
The certification scheme is the result of research sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) under its 'Partners in Innovation' scheme.
It is supported by organisations from both government and industry, including the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Welsh Assembly Government, Association of British Insurers, Council of Mortgage Lenders and House Builders Federation.