Patent application title: Flood control device and method of using same
Lee Shaw (Jersey City, NJ, US)
IPC8 Class: AE02B310FI
Class name: Fluid control, treatment, or containment flow control artificial water barrier (e.g., dam, levee, etc.)
Publication date: 2009-11-05
Patent application number: 20090274519
A water-fillable flood control device is provided that consists of a
waterproof bag with a friction causing outer surface and having a mouth
that can be closed with a waterproof seal after filling the bag with
water. The bag can be filled by one person at a flood site using a
filling/form sleeve and locally-available water. It is not necessary to
fill the bag with sand, or add chemicals. The friction causing surface
may be achieved by any means or method so long as the purpose is to hold
the device in place for facilitating the stacking of a plurality of
devices on top of each other to form a stable water control structure
without the need for external supports.
1. A flood control device comprising:(a) a waterproof bag having a mouth
suitable for receiving water;(b) a non-valve closure device associated
with the mouth that, when closed, forms a waterproof seal over the mouth;
and(c) a friction causing outer surface for facilitating the stacking of
a plurality of bags into a stable water control structure.
2. A method of constructing a water control structure, comprising:(a) providing a plurality of empty waterproof bags to a site;(b) providing at least one filling form/sleeve to the site;(c) placing each bag in a filling form/sleeve open mouth up(d) filling each bag with water;(e) sealing each mouth of each bag;(f) removing filling form/sleeve from bag; and(g) stacking the filled bags onto each other to construct a water control structure.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY-SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates to a water-fillable flood-control device and a method of using such device.
2. Description of the Related Art
Conventional sandbags have long been used for flood and water control. Normally made of burlap or plastic, they are typically filled at a staging area with sand or other solid ballast by two or more people. The bags can then be transported or carried by one or two people to the point of usage, and can be used to form a partially water-tight barrier to temporarily help protect persons and property from rising waters that may suddenly appear after a storm or other emergency.
In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, tsunamis, river flooding, levee breaks and other recent disasters, it has become clear that more effective and practical flood control devices are needed. The flood control device and method of using same disclosed herein responds to the need for a more effective, cost effective and practical flood control device for accomplishing the rapid construction of a temporary water restraining barrier.
Sand or ballast needed to fill conventional sand bags is not normally available near a flood zone area. Constructing a flood control structure either requires the staging of sand or ballast or pre-filled bags at the area of use. This often requires heavy road equipment to transport the materials over often rugged or inaccessible terrain, and often causes collateral terrain damage. In either event, rescue and recovery operations are delayed, and become more costly to perform. Sandbags are also difficult to remove after use and make it difficult to restore the environment to its previous state. Sandbags are generally not recyclable and sand or ballast needs to be disposed of to restore the environment after the occurrence of the event.
In addition, sandbags are usually filled by hand, a difficult and time-consuming operation that normally requires two people--one to hold open the bag and another to fill the bag with sand with a shovel. In addition, one or two other people are required to hand carry the filled bag to the point of use, and place it correctly. Also, conventional sandbags are not completely watertight, either individually or when stacked together, and tend to seep and leak, which may cause the structure to be breached.
Various attempts have been made in the past to construct alternative flood-control devices. For example, Merten U.S. Pat. No. 6,491,431 discloses a sandbag envelope having "hook-and-loop" connecting elements on the surface of the envelope to permit bags to cling to each other. However, sand or a similar material is still required to fill the bag. The patent specifically states that the material used to fill the bag must have a specific weight higher than that of water.
Wagner et al. U.S. Pat. No. 4,362,433 shows a flood control bag that is designed to be partially filled with water. This bag, however, is cumbersome and impractical for use in the field. For example, the bag still requires pockets of sand in an inner lining to provide extra weight and traction. The sand must be inserted into the pockets at the time of manufacture; it could not be done in the field. Also, as the bags are piled up, the weight of the bags would flatten the pockets and they would lose traction. The bag also has rings and clips at the corners, a check valve for use in filling the bag, and two handles. These extra elements increase the manufacturing cost of the bags. In addition, the Wagner device would not provide a watertight seal when stacked together because the rings and clips would tend to hold the edges of the bags apart, thus allowing water to flow around the bags, which would eventually cause the structure to fail.
Some other water-fillable flood-control devices have been proposed, such as devices disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,004,067; 4,981,392; 6,641,329; and 6,022,172. These devices are not, however, bags, but are specialized, large structures that would be costly to manufacture and cumbersome to use in the field.
Thus, a need exists for a small, inexpensive, reusable flood control device that is fillable with water and does not need to be filled with sand or other solid material, that is relatively flexible and self-stabilizing without the need for an external support, and that is easily stackable into a stable and water tight or virtually water tight structure.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention satisfies the above-mentioned needs. In one embodiment, the invention comprises a flood control device comprising:
(a) a waterproof bag having a mouth suitable for receiving water;(b) a non-valve closure device, associated with the mouth, that when closed forms a waterproof seal over the mouth; and(c) a friction causing outer surface that facilitates the stacking of a plurality of bags into a stable water control structure.
In another embodiment, the invention comprises a method of constructing a water control structure, comprising:
(a) providing a plurality of empty waterproof bags to a site;(b) providing at least one filling form/sleeve to the site;(c) placing each bag in a filling form/sleeve open mouth up;(d) filling each bag with water;(e) sealing the mouth of each bag;(f) removing the filling form/sleeve from each bag; and(g) stacking the filled bags onto each other to construct a water control structure.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
These and other aspects of the present invention may be more fully understood by reference to one or more of the following drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a top view of one embodiment of the bag of the present invention, in a flat and unfilled position and showing a textured outer surface on the bag;
FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an empty filling form/sleeve of the invention;
FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the bag of the invention, in a filled and open position inside the filling form/sleeve;
FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the bag of the invention, in a filled and sealed position inside the filling form/sleeve;
FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the filling form/sleeve of the invention, in a position partially removed from the bag;
FIG. 6 is a top view of the bag of the invention, in a filled and sealed position and ready for use;
FIG. 7 is a side view of the bag of the invention, in a filled and sealed position and ready for use;
FIG. 8 is a side view of a plurality of filled and sealed bags, stacked to form a barrier;
FIG. 9 is a top view of an alternative embodiment of the bag of the invention, showing parallel ribs covering the bag;
FIG. 10 is a side view of the bag of FIG. 9;
FIG. 11 is a top view of two bags stacked on top of each other with ribs oriented in parallel fashion;
FIG. 12 is a side view of the bags of FIG. 11;
FIG. 13 a top view of two bags stacked on top of each other with ribs oriented in perpendicular fashion; and
FIG. 14 is a top view of a plurality of bags stacked on top of each other with ribs oriented in crisscross fashion.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
The present invention is a flood control device, preferably consisting of a bag somewhat similar to a sandbag but designed to be filled with water instead of sand. It is also known informally as a "sandless sandbag."
As used herein, the term "flood" means any situation in which an unusual quantity of standing or flowing water or other liquid is accumulating, requiring a barrier or diversion structure to prevent or reduce harm to persons or property. The flood could be the result of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, other severe storm, tsunami, river overflow, high tide or the like, or could be the result of a man-made disaster such as a levee, dam or water main failure or the like.
The primarily application for the invention is a replacement for the conventional sandbag in flood control situations. As used herein, the term "bag" means any flexible water tight device having an open mouth and water tight closure attached designed to hold water which can be water tight sealed, and has a friction causing outer surface. As used herein, the term "friction causing outer surface" means any means whatsoever that achieves traction and/or stability between bags so that when bags are stacked, a stable, water resistant, integrated structure may be achieved to resist any forces for which the structure is designed to accomplish. The bag will be preferably made of a waterproof plastic material and approximately rectangular in shape when empty. It is to be understood, of course, that the invention is not limited to such material or shape.
The bags of the invention may also have other applications such as water storage, dunage, emergency shelters, automobile impact control devices, military, and others.
Turning to the drawings, FIG. 1 is a top view of one embodiment of the bag 1 of the present invention, in a flat and unfilled position. Preferably, the bag is made of a waterproof plastic material, but the invention is not limited to plastic. The bag material and closure is of sufficient bursting strength to maintain the height of the desired water containment structure intended, and the material may, if desired, can be treated for protection from such elements as, but not limited to, salt water and/or sunlight.
The bag is sealed on three sides, and has a wide opening 5 at the top. A closure 10 surrounds the opening 5. The closure may be a sealable watertight closure of any kind, which may or may not be reusable, and which may be, but is not limited to, self-seal devices and/or devices of any type such as, but not limited to zip locks, zipper locks, zippers, press and seal devices of any kind, and/or devices which may use, but are not limited to Velcro, Velcro type devices, adhesives, glue, crimps, snaps, heat seals, welds, stapling, sewing, screw and/or plug caps and/or tying or any combination thereof. In a feature of the invention, the outer surfaces 20 of the bag are textured with a friction causing surface such as with a pattern of bumps molded into or affixed onto the material. FIG. 9 is a top view of an alternative embodiment of the bag of the invention, showing parallel ribs covering the outer surfaces of the bag. Any type of pattern and/or method may be used to obtain the friction causing outer surface.
The purpose of the friction causing surface is to provide a means to stabilize the bags when they are stacked on top of each other. The bags become essentially self-stabilizing. In this way, no external anchors or support structures are needed to stabilize a barrier constructed of the bags. The bumps or ribs are hard and dense enough to resist flattening when multiple bags are stacked on top of each other, and when stacked create an interlocking matrix between the bags.
The friction causing, traction and/or stabilizing properties of the surface of the bag may also be achieved by, but is not limited by the use of, impregnation with other materials, coating(s), mesh, fabric, grit of any type, adhesive(s), molding(s), embossing, cleats, Velcro like products, wrapping in a or insertion into another nonskid or friction causing device, multiple ply bags or any combination thereof, whether either integral to or added to the bag, so long as the purpose is to hold the bag in place within a structure of bags, and in so doing becomes a part of that structure, and as part of that structure creates a resistance to the outside forces for which the integrated structure was intended to accomplish, by using, restricting and/or altering the hydraulic properties of the water in the enclosing bag, and using the principles of friction to hold the bag in place rather than the use of a ballast which has a grater specific gravity than water.
Handle(s), hook(s) and/or grommet(s) for purposes of handling and/or storage may or may not be part of the bag.
Markings of various types such as, but not limited to fill lines, printed instructions and/or placement markings may or may not be part of the bag.
Since a nearly continuous supply of water is almost always locally available in a flood situation, the bags may be easily filled on site by one person, either by dunking them in the water by hand or using a hose, pump or other means. In one feature of the invention, a filling form/sleeve 30 is provided to assist with filling the bag. An empty sleeve is illustrated in FIG. 2. Sleeve 30 is not required, but it is recommended for faster filling of the bags. The sleeve preferably consists of a box-shaped or cylindrical structure open at the top and bottom, with an interior large enough to accommodate a filled bag, and having a preferred height which is slightly less than the length of a bag.
The sleeve acts essentially as a form that serves in a manner similar to a brick making form or mold. In operation, a user places an empty bag, mouth up into the sleeve and fills the bag with water. A full bag within a sleeve, with the top open, is illustrated in FIG. 3. The bag is then sealed while still in the sleeve. A sealed bag in a sleeve is shown in FIG. 4. The sleeve is then lifted off of the bag, as shown in FIG. 5. The filled and sealed bag is then ready for use, as shown in FIG. 6. Using the sleeve assures that all devices will be uniform in size and weight, and allows one person to do the work, quite easily. Bags are filled at the immediate point of need. Bags can be later be emptied at the point of use, and have no environmental impact when emptied, returning ballast as run-off, and being fully and economically recyclable.
Method of Use for a Flood Control Application
Below is listed a series of steps that typically would be followed using the invention for a flood control application:
(1) Bags are delivered empty to the flood site with or without an optional filling device, hose, pump, and/or flowing water source. (Immersion of the bag into water without any optional equipment is possible, but normally would be used only as a last resort.)(2) Each bag is filled with water either to the top of a properly constructed filling sleeve or device, or to a fill line marked on the bag, if provided.(3) Excess air is bled from the bag, and the bag is sealed.(4) The filling sleeve or device is removed by lifting it up off of the filled bag.(5) The bag is ready for placement in a flood control structure.(6) Each bag is placed in the structure using standard sandbag stacking procedures and/or overlap marks, if provided. Examples of bag stacking and placement orientations are illustrated in FIGS. 8 and 11-14. With respect to the arrangement shown in FIG. 8, the small gaps between adjacent bags are shown for illustration only. The properties of hydromechanics, gravity and friction would cause the bags to flatten somewhat and close the gaps, thus forming a virtually water-tight seal.(7) After the flood situation has abated, the structure may be dismantled. This is easily accomplished because each bag may be emptied in place by opening the closure at the point of use, thus returning the water ballast to the ground as run-off, and requiring no lifting, emptying and removal of sand and/or sand bags(8) If re-use of the bags is desired, the bags are fully drained, clamped or tied in bundles and returned to a storage facility where the bags can be stored by hanging upside (open side) down to allow drying.(9) The bags are now ready for reuse.
ADVANTAGES OF THE INVENTION
The device of the present invention has numerous advantages over conventional sandbags and barrier construction methods. For example, the device allows for more efficient and speedier deployment than current methods of flood control/water barrier construction materials. Bags are delivered to the site empty and require no delivery of and/or on site production of ballast or sand fill. Nor does the device require the addition of any chemical additives. On-site water from any source is all that is required. The bag is rapidly filled with water from any continuous source at or brought to the site, or by submersion on site, and quickly sealed. No sand or ballast is required.
In addition, the bag is extremely inexpensive, and competitive with conventional burlap sandbags. Because the specific gravity of sand is 1.6 times that of water, a bag containing a greater mass can be used and still be handed safely. Fewer bags are required to erect a structure. The bag is recyclable and may be used more than one time. Also, the device, through the utilization of a wide mouth and self-sealing closure, and the design and size of same, allows for a far more rapid filling, closing, and deployment than other devices intended for this purpose. The bag can be filled and deployed at the exact point of use. The bag is extremely labor and time efficient in deployment, assembly, and removal. No shovels or specialized or heavy equipment is needed for assembly, except for an optional filling device, water hose, and/or water pump. A minimum of dragging or lifting to place bag is needed. No after use disposal of sand, ballast, chemical sludge, and/or bags is required, each bag is emptied in place at the site requiring no lifting of filled devices, or dumping of any kind. The bags are fully reusable, and are very environmentally friendly because when emptied, the water simply returns as run-off.
The design and filling procedures of the bag creates a finished device which is both uniform in size and weight, both of which can be predetermined. This pre-allows for accurate calculation of materials needed to construct a structure, allows for the design of a more accurately and soundly engineered structure, and by predetermining its weight, allows the bag size to be calculated in such a manner so that it is a safe weight for handling, which will minimize the risk of lifting injuries to workers. The bag cannot be over filled as conventional sandbags can be, and thus avoids over weight bags and the attendant possible injuries.
Although only a few embodiments of the present invention have been expressly disclosed, the invention is, nonetheless, to be broadly construed, and is not to be limited except by the character of the claims appended hereto.
Patent applications in class Artificial water barrier (e.g., dam, levee, etc.)
Patent applications in all subclasses Artificial water barrier (e.g., dam, levee, etc.)