Working with sandbags text version

The following transcript is for Brisbane City Council's YouTube video, Working with sandbags.

Travis: I’m Travis Bell from the Brisbane City SES. During storm season, one of the ways we protect homes from flood and storm water is with these sandbags. When used properly sandbags can dramatically reduce and minimise flood and storm water damage to homes.

Now you may have seen us on the news building sandbag levies around entire towns during large scale flooding around Queensland. Doing that takes hundreds of people, heavy equipment, more than a thousand sandbags for every ten metres of levy bank we build. But today I’m going to show you how you can use the sandbags at your place, if summer storms or floods threaten your home.

Here in Brisbane during the storm season, between October and March ever year the Brisbane City Council makes available to stockpiles of pre-filled sandbags available twenty-four/seven whenever you need them, free of charge, from these Council locations.

We can use sandbags in a few different situations.

Sandbags probably do their best work when they are used to divert storm water away from entering your home.

But sandbags can also be used where we are expecting flood waters to rise from local creek, a storm surge, or an especially high tide.

But, before we start, it’s important to understand a few things about sandbags. First, they are not actually waterproof themselves. To keep water out, they need to be used together with plastic sheeting or a tarp of some kind.

Second, sandbags are very heavy, especially when they are wet. If you’re going to be placing more than a few, you’re probably going to need a few people helping you. Today I’ve got my team of SES volunteers working with me. Now our aim is to stop flood and storm water entering through a doorway or entry to your home. So we need to look at the area we’re going to place our sandbags first. Ideally, we want that area to be as flat as possible. If we place sandbags over garden edgings or on uneven ground, it’s going to limit how well they work. You should also consider how you’re going to get in, and out, of your house with the sandbags in place.

The next step is to secure our plastic in place. The first row of sandbags will hold that plastic down and stop it from moving. Sandbags themselves should only ever be half filled, because we need to be able to mould them into shape. The easiest way is with your boot. It flattens out the sandbag, and closes and gaps between them. Notice too how on the first row, the top of the bag is tucked under itself. One row of sandbags usually stands about half a foot, or ten centimetres tall. This may be all you need – but if not, another layer can be added. It’s just like laying bricks, by offsetting the bags like a brick wall, we build a stronger barrier.

If you need to build a longer wall, you should build it in a crescent shape – arcing out toward the water. A wall this shape will be stronger than a straight wall. And if you need to build your sandbag wall higher – you need to build the wall so that the base is three times as thick as the top.

Building a sandbag levy is long, hot, and hard work. So while my team is busy here, let’s see where else in your house sandbags can help you when flooding is expected.

Sinks, showers and toilets all have drains that can backflow during flooding – placing sandbags over them can be helpful to plug them up and keep the mess outside.

And this is the finished product. It used many sandbags and took a team of well-trained SES volunteers to build.

But at best sandbags are a temporary solution – even when laid correctly, they are only meant to last a few hours – the bags themselves will start to fall apart after around six weeks. Because of this, and because used sandbags often contain contaminants from flood and storm water, they can’t be re-used or returned to the Council depot. Instead you need to dispose of them a Brisbane City Council transfer station. And this is best done before they start falling apart.

Working near flood or storm water can be dangerous - and hygiene is really important. Storm water almost always carries contaminants and all sorts of nasty stuff – cuts need to be treated with antiseptic, and gloves and boots should be worn at all times. And don’t underestimate the power of running water – nothing is more important than the safety of you, and your family.

For more information on how to prepare for severe weather this summer, visit Brisbane City Council’s website or call Council on (07) 3403 8888.

Last updated:9 May 2019