Hurricanes Spawn Products
Apr 16, 2008
Tampa Bay Tribune--April 16, 2008
By NEIL JOHNSON
The Tampa Tribune
Science may never devise a way to control hurricanes, but technology is evolving to deal with the aftermath. There’s a new device to keep floodwater outdoors, a new method of tracking evacuees and an improvement to the ubiquitous blue tarp.
Two calm hurricane seasons have not slowed the growth in the hurricane products industry.
One indication is the rising number of vendors year to year at the National Hurricane Conference, said Teri Besse, exhibit coordinator for the conference. Every conference has some products or services that were not around the year before, said Davit Tait, conference coordinator.
Some vendors also have to adapt.
The Aqua Pod Kit, a plastic bladder placed in a bathtub to store drinking water to use after a storm, debuted at the 2006 conference and now faces competition. The kit is made for one-time use, so the company started offering a replacement for $10.
Here are some of the new products that have emerged to deal with storms:
This came on the market about 18 months ago as a device to block floodwater from exterior doors, a job done by sandbags for years.
Every storm that threatens, residents scoop sand into sacks to be stacked in front of doors.
The dam is mounted in brackets attached to each side of a door. It is coated in vinyl with rubber on the ends. A crank expands the dam to fit across the door and into the brackets.
It works only on concrete block houses. Water will go through walls of a wood frame house.
A line of dams can be used to block larger openings such as garage doors. It weighs about 45 pounds and can quickly be fitted in front of the door.
Even with the best doorway protection, there’s no guarantee floodwater won’t make it into your house, said Ed Curry, with Home Safety Solutions in Oldsmar. The company, on the Web at www.hurricanesos.com, sells DoorDams in the Tampa Bay area.
A crack in your foundation can allow water to creep in. So can openings where outdoor hose faucets come through the walls, or exterior electric outlets.
Water standing next to a house long enough will seep through the stucco and block.
In addition to sandbags, a common method of sealing doors is to use expandable foam along the edges.
Both methods have disadvantages.
Sandbags are heavy, require a trip to a distribution point, usually a fire station, and you have to dispose of the sand after the flood recedes. Most experts also advise you to tape plastic sheeting over the doorway before piling up the sandbags.
The foam, available at home improvement stores, usually peels paint or finish from the door when it’s scraped off and can be difficult to remove.
DoorDam won’t be right for everyone, either: A dam 26 inches high on a standard exterior door runs $850, shipping, tax and installation included.
After the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes, homeowners nailed blue tarps over damaged roofs, then waited, sometimes for months, for roofing companies or for insurance settlements.
Sun and heat eventually broke down the vinyl before roofers or insurance checks arrived.
Hope and Tony Diaz started work to patent the EZ Tarp three years ago.
It has two main advantages over the blue tarps:
One is no nails or weights to hold the tarp in place. A strip of heavy-duty adhesive runs along the edges. You peel paper from the adhesive and glue it to the roof.
A homeowner should be able to put the tarp in place in 10 minutes, said Walt Sammis, general manager of A Tarp Solution in Miami, on the web at www.atarpsolution.com.
The second advantage is that the vinyl is more durable.
It is three to five times thicker than the blue tarps and has been coated to resist ultraviolet light.
The company says it will last a year.
With the adhesive, the tarp edges can be pressed into the undulations of tile roofs.
When it’s time for repairs, the tarp is ripped off with the damaged part of the roof to be replaced.
The cost is $69.99 for a 10-by-12-foot piece.
Texas last year adopted a method of keeping track of special-needs evacuees using technology similar to the way a store tracks its products.
As evacuees get to shelters, a member of the state National Guard will take the evacuee’s information and type it into a database. Then each person is given a wrist band with a unique bar code.
Using a reader similar to what stores use to take shelf inventory, the bar code is matched with personal data and transmitted to a central database at the University of Texas.
Bands with matching bar codes can be placed on a person’s belongings, or even pets.
A Texas company, Radiant RFID, supplies the bands and bar code technology. RFID stands for radio frequency identification.
The company also provides equipment set up at shelter doors, called a portal, that read the bar codes when a person walks through.
With the data, the Texas Governor’s Division of Emergency Management can tell when a person enters a shelter.
If the evacuee is put aboard a bus to be taken elsewhere, the system can track the person and belongings as well as tell where the person got off the bus.
The system has not been used in an evacuation but would have been used in 2007 when Hurricane Dean appeared to threaten Texas.