A HUDDERSFIELD firm has been swamped with demand for a new product to combat flooding.
FloodSax, a lightweight and effective alternative to the traditional sandbag, is being handed out to households in high-risk areas in the North-East under a pilot scheme.
The scheme is being run by the Northumberland Fire Service, the Government’s Environment Agency and residential energy efficiency specialist Eaga plc.
Under the scheme up to 125 properties in Morpeth are being issued with FloodSax, invented by Golcar businessman Richard Bailey supplied by his firm, Environmental Defence Systems.
FloodSax are activated when they comes into contact with water; the polymer inside expands and absorbs the water to 90% capacity in just three minutes.
Each one is the size of a small pillow, but can absorb up to 22 litres of water. Twenty FloodSax can be stored in a box for up to five years and deployed in minutes.
Paul Bowens, from Eaga, said: “The trail of devastation left by last summer’s floods is still fresh in the mind and many households are still living in temporary accommodation.
“Unfortunately these heartbreaking images are becoming all too frequent, so it is becoming increasingly urgent to help households protect themselves wherever possible.
“These FloodSax can do just that. Because they are stored at home they can be deployed at very short notice to block the water coming through the front and back doors or to prevent the unpleasantness of lavatories overflowing.
“Once they have done their job the FloodSax are also biodegradable, so there are no lasting environmental impacts.”
Mr Bowens added: “If this trial is successful we will be looking to extend it to other vulnerable areas across the UK, such as Yorkshire and Humberside and the South-West.”
Eaga had initially acquired the FloodSax for its Warm Front customers in flood-risk areas.
Warm Front is a Government-funded scheme offering a range of insulation and central heating grants to vulnerable households on qualifying benefits.
After consulting the Environment Agency and Northumberland Fire Service Newcastle-based Eaga decided to run the pilot scheme in neighbourhoods at risk.
Brian Hesler, Northumberland Chief Fire Officer, said: “One of our major problems during spates or widespread flooding is being able to access a large enough stock of sandbags.
“This pilot scheme is the first of its kind in the country and represents real, local initiatives to protect the most vulnerable people in our county.”
FloodSax has already proved itself in Huddersfield. Staff at Kirkburton floor treatment company CoGri Group used 30 FloodSax to protect £360,000 worth of equipment at its premises during flooding in January.
FloodSax has also been endorsed by the National Disabled Fire Association, the body promoting disability in the workplace in the fire service.
Association chairman Duncan White: “This lightweight and compact system will ensure that the most vulnerable members of our communities will be better prepared if there is a threat from flooding.”
Mr Bailey said: “We are delighted that FloodSax have been given the seal of approval by the association.
“We wanted to give some control back to the people in flood-risk areas.
“FloodSax are designed to control flood damage and will buy the time you need to move your loved ones and valuable possessions to safety.”