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Enquiries boom for barriers that withstood Sandy floods

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 06, 2012

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Hurricane Sandy devastated large parts of the United States east coast last month.

But it also provided a useful showcase for a Westcountry flood defence company, which goes by the catchphrase "the water stops here."

Barriers installed by Flood Control International Ltd, from Tavistock, saved an upmarket Manhattan apartment block from the massive storm surge that washed over the city.

The firm featured in coverage of the freak weather, including an online blog looking at how New York survived the deluge, which prompted a rise in enquiries from people across the Atlantic looking for protection.

And with a Stateside shake-up of the insurance system set to boost premiums, it is expected that the US will soon become a major part of its sizeable export business.

Tim Collingwood, managing director, said: "We have been supplying flood doors, flood gates and flood barriers to the US and around the world for nine years now.

"There is very little of this kind of protection out there – but the feeling is that the situation is going to change.

"It is a rarity to protect individual buildings and generally they rely on the US Army Core of Engineers, which is a bit like the Environment Agency.

"Insurance premiums are set to rise as funding budgets are cut – we will be able to exploit that and intend to develop projects more in the US."

The company began life in Gunnislake in 2003 as a family business, but was bought out this year and moved to Tavistock, now employing eight staff in the office.

It already had work installed at New York's Coney Island Boardwalk and projects along the Eastern Seaboard as far as Florida.

With over 30% of its turnover from international projects, the company is fast gaining a global reputation.

It reported a 575% rise in enquiries after installing flood barriers at an upmarket apartment block and shopping centre on West Broadway last month, though the numbers remain in the dozens.

Reporting on New York and the storm, the US blog Core 77 said the company's barriers were the only "serious anti-flooding measures" it had seen.

These barriers are manufactured by a company called Flood Control International, a company whose motto is "The water stops here", it added.

The firm provides a range of flood protection – from simple barriers right through to complex, automated defence systems installed in buildings.

Overseas income is generated mostly in Ireland but also in Germany with a big contract in the offing over in Hong Kong.

Much of its work comes from government contracts to protect utilities, such as power stations and water plants, where schemes can cost up to £200,000.

The Devon team, which has doubled in two years, is made up of mostly computer aided design (CAD) engineers and has been turning over between £1 million and £2 million each year.

Mr Collingwood says the recent extreme weather which has plunged parts of the UK into misery has been a boost for the flood defence industry.

He added: "We have had a couple of really rubbish summers but the Government has a program to protect critical infrastructure since 2007."

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