Why use sandbags?

Torrential rain and thunderstorms have periodically battered the UK over the past couple of years, unfortunately leaving many areas subject to multiple floods. The Red Cross has published a checklist of things to do before a flood – such as check local flood warnings, prepare an emergency kit with important phone numbers, first aid kit, torch and water, and also pack an emergency evacuation kit should you have to leave your home overnight. Another item on the checklist is the purchase of sandbags, which is a task that can be done in advance to help reduce the damage to buildings and properties.

How do sandbags work?

Sandbags fulfill a number of roles during a flood. Used to block openings into buildings, doorways, drains and vents; by absorbing some water and acting as a barrier, sandbags can help keep water out of your property. They are even more effective when used in conjunction with plastic sheeting. if put in place properly.

Sandbags can also be used to weigh down manhole covers and garden furniture that is likely to float away and become a danger during a flood. They can be used inside a house to block sink, bath and toilet drains to prevent water backing up from the sewers into a property.

Prevention is better than a cure

We are lucky enough in the UK to have a fairly advanced weather forecasting system where we are notified as best as we can be of any severe weather warnings. If a flood warning is issued in your area, you should take heed and make the necessary preparations. Once your property has been flooded, sandbags will provide little benefit. Your main concern at this stage should be to protect yourself and any belongings.

To protect your property as best as you can, you need to identify all entry points that water could get through. This is not limited to doors, think about air bricks, utility service points and cable entry points. Sandbags will not be the appropriate protection method for all access ways – other solutions such as a silicone sealant may be more appropriate.

The Environment Agency has stated that for a standard door opening you will need at least 6 sand bags to keep out water of up to cm in depth. This is based on filled sandbags that contain approximately 15 kg of sand.