Sandbag: How To Make & Stack
Produced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and The Unified San Diego County Emergency Servces Orginization--Office of disaster Preparedness.
The use of sandbags is a simple, but effective, way to prevent or reduce flood water damage. Properly filled and placed, sandbags can act as a barrier to divert moving water around instead of through buildings. Sandbag construction does not guarantee a water-tight seal, but is satisfactory for use in most situations. Sandbags are also used successfully to prevent overtopping of leveed streams and for training current flow to specific areas.
Untied sandbags are recommended for most situations. Tied sandbags should be used only for special occasions when prefilling and stockpiling may be required or for specific purposes such as filling holes, holding objects in position or to form barriers backed by supportive planks. Tied sandbags are generally easier to handle and stockpile, however sandbag filling operations can generally be best accomplished at or near the placement site and tying of the bags would be a waste of valuable time and effort. If the bags are to be prefilled at a distant location, due consideration must be given to transportation vehicles and placement site access.
The most commonly used bags are burlap sacks available at feed or hardware stores, but there are also polypropylene bags available in many stores. Empty bags can be stockpiled for emergency use and will be serviceable for several years if properly stored. Filled bags of dirt will deteriorate quickly, if the bags are porous.
A heavy bodied or sandy soil is the most desirable for filling sandbags, but any usable material at or near the site has definite advantages. Coarse sand could leak out through the weave in the bag. To prevent this, double bag the material. Gravelly or rocky soils are generally poor choices because of their permeability characteristics.
A single row of sandbags three layers high will form a stable barrier, but if additional height is necessary, the pyramid placement technique should be utilized. The area a filled sandbag will cover varies, but approximate dimensions are 15" wide, 20" long, and 4" deep.
Sandbag barriers can easily be constructed by two people, as most individuals have the physical capabilities to carry or drag a sandbag weighing approximately 30 pounds.
Filling sandbags is a two person operation: One member of the team should place the empty bag between or slightly in front of widespread feet with arms extended. The throat of the bag is folded to form a collar and held with the hands in a position that will enable the other team member to empty a rounded shovel full of material into the open end. The person holding the sack should be standing with knees slightly flexed and head and face as far away from the action of the shovel as practical.
The shoveler should carefully release the rounded shovel full of soil into the throat of the bag. Haste in this operation can result in undue spillage and added work. The use of safety goggles and gloves is desirable and sometimes necessary.
For large scale operations, filling sandbags can be expedited by using bag holding racks, metal funnels, and power loading equipment. However, the special equipment required is not always available during an emergency.
Bags should not be filled more than half full or less than one third of their capacity.
Remove any debris from the area where the bags are to be placed. Place the filled bags lengthwise and parallel to the direction of the flow.
Fold the open end of the unfilled portion of the bag to form a triangle. If tied bags are used, flatten or flare the tied end.
Place succeeding bags on the folded or flared portion of the previous bag and stamp into place to eliminate voids and form a tight seal.
Stagger the joint connections when multiple layers are necessary. For unsupported layers over three courses high, use the pyramid placement method.
Pyramid placement is used to increase the height of sandbag protection.
Place the sandbags to form a pyramid by alternating header courses (bags placed crosswise) and stretcher courses (bags placed lengthwise).
Stamp each bag in place, overlap sacks, maintain staggered joint placement and tuck under any loose ends.
Flood and Winter Weather Safety Tips
BEFORE THE STORM
- Keep materials on hand such as sandbags, shovels, plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber and other emergency building materials for waterproofing.
- Store supplies at work, home and in your car in handy locations:
- First Aid Kit and essential medicines;
- Food (packaged, dried, canned, baby food and food for special dietary needs);
- Non-electric can opener
- Portable Radio
- Flashlights and spare batteries (stored in a watertight plastic bag)
- Store extra food and water for your pets and livestock in case you are unable to leave to get supplies.
- Arrange for auxiliary electrical supplies for operations which are critically affected by power failure.
- Keep your automobile fueled in case you have to leave in a hurry.
WHEN YOU RECEIVE A STORM WARNING
- Store drinking water in clean bathtubs and other containers, since water service may be interrupted.
- Know safe routes to high ground and move to a safe area before access is cut off by flood water.
- If forced to leave your home and time permits, move essential items to safe ground.
- Fill fuel tanks to keep them from floating away.
- Grease any immovable machinery.
- Prepare to divert water by digging trenches and cleaning culverts, storm drains and rain gutters, sandbagging and patching roofs.
- Establish an out-of-state "family contact" so that family and friends will know who to call to get information about where you are.
- Before leaving, disconnect all electrical appliances or turn off all electrical circuits at the fuse panel by pulling the main switch.
DURING THE STORM
- Avoid low lying areas subject to flooding.
- Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream where water is above your knees.
- Do not attempt to drive over a flooded road - you can become stranded and trapped.
- If your car stalls, abandon it IMMEDIATELY and seek higher ground.
- Avoid unnecessary trips. If you must travel during the storm, dress in warm loose layers of clothing, and advise others of where you are going and when you expect to be there.
- Use the telephone only for family emergency needs or to report dangerous conditions.
- Tune to local radio or television stations for emergency information and instructions from local authorities.
AFTER THE STORM
- Do not use fresh food or canned food that has come into contact with floodwaters.
- Follow local instructions regarding the safety of drinking water. If you are in doubt, boil or purify water before drinking it. Have your wells pumped out and the water tested before drinking it.
- Seek necessary medical care at the nearest hospital. Food, clothing, shelter, and first aid will be available at the Red Cross Shelters.
- Do not visit disaster areas. Your presence might hamper rescue and other emergency operations.
- Do not handle live electrical equipment in wet areas; electrical equipment should be checked and dried before returning to service.
- Use flashlights, not lanterns or torches, to examine buildings; flammables may be inside.
- Report any broken or downed utility lines to appropriate authorities.
- Stay tuned to radio and television for information and instructions from authorities.
Sandbags can help prevent or reduce flood water damage. Properly filled and placed, sandbags can act as a barrier to divert moving water around, instead of through buildings. Sandbag construction does not guarantee a water tight seal, but is satisfactory for use in most circumstances.
Filling sandbags is a two person operation: one person holds the bag and the other person shovels sand into the bag. Remember to fill the bag only to a third or half of its capacity, or it will be too heavy to carry and might leak sand if there is not enough of the bag to fold over when you are done.
Remove any debris from the area where the bags will be used. Place the sandbags lengthwise and parallel to the direction of the flow of water. Fold the open end of the bag into a triangle and place over the top of the bag. Place any succeeding bags on the folded portion of the previous bag and stamp into place to eliminate voids and form as tight a seal as possible.
Stagger the joints when multiple layers are required, and if it is necessary to stack the bags higher than three levels, it will be necessary to stack additional bags behind the first row to provide support.
Most homeowner's insurance policies do not offer protection against flood losses. For more information about flood insurance, call your insurance agent, or the National Flood Insurance Program at 1-800-427-4661.
The San Diego County Office of Disaster Preparedness (619) 565-3490 has compiled these brief safety tips to help you prepare for a safe winter. Winter storms can be very dangerous and even deadly. For more information on flooding and how you and your family can prepare for winter, call your city or county Office of Disaster Preparedness or Emergency Services, or the nearest office of the National Weather Service.