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Water Today Title November 27, 2020

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Update 2018/4/17


This story is brought to you in part by Sourceia - Eco-houses

By Cori Marshall

2017 saw extensive spring flooding in southern Québec. 291 municipalities were hit by the rising water, flooding 5,300 homes, and over 4,000 people had to be evacuated. The contemporary way of flood proofing homes is using sandbags, the problem with this method is that it is not reusable. Dr Amar Sabih, Senior Academic Associate Director, Undergraduate Laboratories at McGill University has come up with a cost-effective, reusable method of keeping flood waters at bay using crowd barriers and plastic tarps.

Dr Sabih said that the concept he has employed "has been used for years." He explained that it "relies on creating a structure with a flexible material that can handle the pressure of the water." Dr Sabih's concept is akin to "creating a big swimming pool," and creating a basin that the water cannot exit.

The material used has to be strong enough to withstand any debris that may be present in the flood water. Dr Sabih added that the material has to be continuous, which means that there can be no separations in the tarp from the affected area to the high ground. Dr Sabih stressed that there has to be significant "weight at the leading edge of the tarp, this is important because there has to be enough pressure to keep it in position."

The reason Sabih came up with the idea was to offer a cost-effective solution to homeowners, and "use whatever we have available." He looked around at what was available and saw that there are "thousands of crowd barriers for festivals." Sabih chose these barriers to build his structure because they were "metal, and very strong," as well as readily available.

Sabih said that the barriers were placed "one beside the other and backed with another row of barriers, the tarp was placed on top and in front."

The structure is relatively easy to set up. Each crowd barrier is roughly 8 to 10 feet in length, Dr Sabih said that in his demonstrations he used five barriers and they were erected "in less than five minutes."

Sabih believes that the setup time for one home, with one person doing all the work, "would be less than two hours." In comparison, he said that "sandbags take 40 people all day." He estimates that his method would be 10% of the cost of sandbagging.

Dr Sabih had approached the city with his concept in the fall of 2017, and he said that the "Mayor forwarded the information to the fire department." He was contacted by the Service d'Incendie de Montréal (SIM) and even demonstrated his concept, now he is "in the process of testing, we need to know everything is possible before putting it into use."

Right now Sabih "is waiting for the call from the SIM, so that they can move forward testing different structure arrangements."

To date, Sabih has done everything on his own and has absorbed all the costs. He is currently "looking for assistance with materials, and equipment." He underlined that "one person cannot do everything by themselves." There is a financial barrier to advancing his project, he can't afford to buy all of the materials he needs to move forward.

The three themes of the province of Québec's Plan d'action en matière de sécurité civile relatif aux inondations: vers une société québécoise plus résiliente aux catastrophes, a provincial flood action plan, are "for an increased level of mobilization: an increase in preparedness, for personalized support: a new approach to recovery management, and to face current and future challenges: an evolution of practices."

Sabih's approach could fall under the preparedness and the evolution of practices. Either way, the spring thaw is just around the corner, and new approaches to protecting homes from the rising water are what is needed and what Dr Sabih is offering.


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