By Andy Hirst Special Correspondent
A Huddersfield company which helps to prevent flooding worldwide is on target to sell its 3 millionth product this year as climate change continues to wreak havoc across the globe.
Golcar-based Environmental Defence Systems Ltd devised an alternative sandbag called FloodSax 13 years ago which is now used on the flooding frontline from the USA to Singapore and from Sweden to Australia. Well over 2.5 million have been sold and it should pass the 3 million mark in the coming months.
FloodSax was devised by Huddersfield entrepreneur Richard Bailey who also invented a military grade ‘sandless sandbag’ called a BlastSax along with a fire containment bag, the AvSax. The AvSax is used on board more than 15,000 passenger planes worldwide to deal with fires caused by lithium batteries overheating in personal electronic devices such as mobile phones and laptops.
The AvSax www.avsax.com won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for its innovation in 2018, is in use with many of the world’s best-known airlines and has been used 33 times to deal with emergencies since the start of 2017 – the most recent mid-air drama was in December.
All the more amazing is that Richard, now 63, has dyslexia and left school with no qualifications.
Richard, who has two daughters and two grandchildren, said: “Like most businesses, the last year has been incredibly challenging and our market for AvSax was hit very hard when planes stopped flying due to Covid-19. That has led us to think differently and we are now actively pursuing potential new markets for the AvSax such as the drone industry.
“Lithium batteries power the world – just think of the huge advances in electric cars in recent years – but they do have potential dangers to them which needs new technology to mitigate that danger.”
Richard added: “In terms of FloodSax, we saw an initial downturn last spring after the first coronavirus lockdown in March, but a pandemic doesn’t stop floods and by the summer FloodSax was very much in demand again across the world. Everyone is now seeing the devastation caused by flooding and once-in-a-generation major flooding disasters are now happening every few years due to the frightening pace of climate change.”
Richard revealed that having two such diverse products meant the business could keep going last year, so much so that by the end of December he needed to make sure he had at least 60,000 FloodSax www.floodsax.co.uk available for the next couple of months.
He said: “Demand for FloodSax just grew and grew as the year went on and is now high again as it’s been a very wet winter here and other parts of the world such as the USA and Australia have suffered unprecedented flooding. Flooding is a problem that all the scientific predictions indicate will only get worse in the coming years.
“Just think round here of places like Hebden Bridge and the terrible flooding Calderdale has suffered in recent years. FloodSax have been used all along the valley to protect homes and businesses from the River Calder.”
Most people don’t realise that local councils have no responsibility to provide sandbags which often catches many people totally unprepared, even in areas that are known to be vulnerable to flooding.
Many councils now urge people living in their areas to invest in anti-flood devices such as FloodSax and accept that sandbags are heavy, cumbersome and a logistical nightmare to store and transport. FloodSax resemble large pillowcases and are vacuum-packed so are space-saving to store but once they are put in water a special gelling polymer inside them expands so they become as big as traditional sandbags and their uniform size makes them ideal to build into barriers. They can also be used inside to soak up spills and leaks in hard-to-reach places.
Adur and Worthing Councils in West Sussex says: “The Environment Agency now says that anti-flood devices like FloodSax are the way forward for people to protect their home.”
Braintree District Council in Essex adds: “The council does not have a statutory duty to provide residents with sandbags during a flooding incident. It is the homeowner’s or landlord’s responsibility to protect their property. Flood defence products such as FloodSax or similar products can be purchased at builders’ merchants or DIY stores.”
The Environment Agency warns: “Don’t assume the authorities will provide you with sandbags in a flood emergency. It is the responsibility of property owners to take appropriate action to protect their property from flooding.”
Environmental Defence Systems Ltd was named Innovative Product Supplier of the Year in the Leeds and West Yorkshire Prestige Awards 2020.
FloodSax are available at Travis Perkins builders’ merchants and online at http://www.floodsax.co.uk/buy/uk-suppliers/
* Written by former Huddersfield Examiner Head of Content ANDY HIRST who now runs his own Huddersfield-based agency AH! PR (www.ah-pr.com) specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting for business in Yorkshire and across the UK.