TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa General Hospital is implementing innovative technology to keep critical care going during a storm.
A watertight barrier known as an "AquaFence" will go up around TGH in the event a threatening storm is approaching Tampa Bay. The fence was employed for the first time at the hospital ahead of Hurricane Ian, about nine months ago.
Thomas Briedis, President of AquaFence USA, said the barrier can be put in place quickly.
"They come folded together, kind of like a laptop," he said. "You take them out of the crate, put them down and they fold open."
Between two people, he estimates 100 feet of AquaFence can be installed in 30 minutes. AquaFence is waterproof, puncture resistant, and wind-stable. Hurricane Ian would have been its biggest test to date, but Briedis says their testing methods mimic the strength of serious hurricanes.
"We are very confident in the system. It was been thoroughly tested," Briedis said.
Tampa General Hospital is surrounded by water, and its custom AquaFence ensures the perimeter is covered at all points from rising sea levels.
"Tampa General has [fences] from 4 feet to 9 feet high, so they use a combination of any of those models to meet the flood elevation they're trying to meet," Briedis explained.
One of the features of AquaFence that makes it effective for a facility like Tampa General Hospital is that it can be mostly in place, with the final panels added quickly once the barrier needs to be fully sealed.
"You can keep panels out and people can get in and out of the building," Briedis said. "Then you install the last few panels right before the storm hits, so to speak."
Also, AquaFance does not need to be filled with water or sand. It uses the force of the flooding to strengthen itself.
"Water will actually build up here on this horizontal panel and as it's pushing up against the vertical panel it's weighing it down," Briedis explained.
Last year, Tampa General also unveiled a new state-of-the-art central energy plant designed to make TGH self-sustainable in the event of a major storm.
The four-story energy plant is located 33 feet above sea level, putting it out of even the highest range of Ian’s projected storm surge. The power plant mostly uses natural gas generators, along with a diesel model, which are capable of running the power plant for more than four days straight.
It is designed to withstand the impact and potential flooding of a Category 5 hurricane.
Briedis said they're working on beginning the distribution of residential AquaFences. They estimate it would cost homeowners around $20,000.