Flood-Control-Testing-at-One-World-Trade-CenterFlood control testing conducted at Alden for America’s One World Trade Center flood protection barrier.

During the first week in May, I attended the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) Conference in Kansas City.  This conference is generally recognized as the key floodplain conference in the U.S. In addition to floodplain managers, associated consulting firms and product vendors regularly attend.

We thought it would be a good idea to go, given Alden’s recent activity in flooding related testing and modeling.  Given the nature of my interest, I primarily attended sessions on floodproofing and modeling, and also spent time in the exhibit.  The sessions were well attended and had good quality presentations.

For me, the key takeaways from the conference were:

In general, insurance companies shouldn’t be expected to invest in protecting areas from flooding.  

Jonathan Goldstick from CH2M gave an excellent presentation on a study aimed at building flood barriers to protect Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek water treatment plants in New York City from storm surge flooding.  When the City realized they would not have sufficient funds, the planning team gathered several  insurance companies together to see if there would be an interest in helping with funding.  The general consensus was that they did not have an interest in reducing risk, because they manage their risk with higher premiums in risk prone areas, so in the end, high risk does not impact their bottom line.  I should point out that FM Global is an exception to this rule, in that they invest heavily in helping their customers reduce risk.  FM Approvals, their certification arm, is a major sponsor of the ASFPM conference.

Advanced technology is being applied to floodproofing

ILC Dover, the company that brought us the famous bouncing landing airbags for the Mars rover, has developed some very unique plugs and blockage systems for subway stairways, tunnels, and other challenging openings.  Numerous other vendors of impressive floodproofing equipment were exhibiting, and it is clear that the market is bringing the best minds to bear on this problem.

A new standard is needed for perimeter flood barriers higher than 3 ft.

FM Approvals’ 2510 certification standard is an extremely useful document that specifies exactly how to test temporary flood protection systems.  The portion covering perimeter walls addresses walls up to 3 ft high, and there is interest in creating a new standard that will handle walls up to 10 ft.  FM Approvals is actively working on developing this, and the challenge will be to create a standard that is meaningful, but also practical, and at a cost that will be affordable to temporary flood wall vendors.

We welcome your comments on flood proofing, flood protection, and modeling.