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Bolina booms helped manage the impact of the UK’s worst floods

Bolina CSB1000 River Severn


Find out how the deployment of Bolina booms helped manage the impact of the UK’s worst floods in more than 200 years.

Over the course of the 2013-2014 winter, the United Kingdom saw unprecedented levels of rainfall during severe storms that caused widespread flooding, power cuts and major disruptions to transport services across the country.

Illustrating the scale of the storms, the Met Office reported the wettest December 1 to January 31 period since 1876, while other local authorities said that the winter period from the beginning of December to the end of February was the wettest recorded in the UK since records began in 1766.

The floods caused by this severe weather were amongst the worst to ever hit the UK, with massive swathes of damage caused in counties such as Somerset, Devon, Dorset, and Cornwall in the south-west, and the Thames Valley in the south-east of the country, with a variety of flooding, ranging from coastal flooding, pluvial flooding, to groundwater flooding, taking place, authorities added.

The Thames Valley was amongst the hardest hit, with as many as 14 severe flood warnings issued along the river’s course. In fact, the water levels were so high that parks along the banks of the Thames were completely submerged, and properties needed to be sandbagged to protect themselves.

Bolina booms riding storms

Bolina was at the forefront of efforts to combat the impact of the flooding, with more than 300 units of its Rope Safety Booms (RSB1150) deployed on the River Thames alone. These booms helped protect a critical flood control structure from damage by debris, officials said at the time.

Bolina - Rope Safety Booms
Bolina Rope Safety Booms deployed on the River Thames

At some points, the water was travelling at more than 10 knots, and as a result, Bolina’s RSB booms needed to cope with extreme conditions and pressures while still functioning properly to deflect debris into an area that could be easily cleared.

Our Rope Safety Booms have been designed to meet a stringent set of conditions set out by the UK’s Environment Agency. More than 400 units were in service at the time, and there were no maintenance or replacements required despite the terrible conditions.

This is because our RSB models comprise of a series of guard piles spaced up to 10 metres apart with floats supporting, two ropes providing constant freeboard and air draft. The design of the float is built around the idea of saving lives as it allows up to two people to climb onto the float without ladders, while the ropes allow casualties of crisis to get to shore unaided.

Furthermore, the floats have been proved to work well in all conditions. They are even able to follow the rise and fall of the water levels due to their lightweight design. Bolina also provides reflective panels to ensure that the floats are visible from all angles.

The properties of the RSB1150 make them ideal options for flood defences and navigation authorities to protect lives, vessels, and structures, as they are effective at stopping craft with a 40T minimum breaking load.

Given the emphasis on protecting property from damage during the 2013-2014 winter floods, perhaps Bolina’s Debris Booms could have also been deployed to help divert debris and prevent blockages forming at crucial points.

Bolina CSB1000 River Severn
Bolina Chain Safety Booms installed on the River Severn

On the River Severn, Bolina’s Chain Safety Booms (CSB1000) were installed throughout its course. These CSBs were introduced to the market by 1998 and require minimal maintenance to restrain and protect watercraft that may have lost power or control due to entering dangerous areas such as weirs or sluices.

The design of the booms allow for an easy assembly job, using simple tools to fully customisable lengths. Due to the weight and size of the boom modules, there is no chance that the boom can be lifted by hand to permit passage underneath it, thereby illustrating how crucial they were in protecting important buildings and structures along the river.

The fixed freeboard and buoyancy also meant that the chains within the tubes remained clear of the water surface and the floats could not be submerged, preventing vessels from passing over it, with even the smallest of craft, such as jetskis and canoes, unable to find a way through.

BBC news footage

BBC news footage shows Bolina booms riding out the severe storms. Even during these extreme flood conditions with record flow in rivers, our booms performed without incident. Watch the BBC news report to know more.

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