‘Sand-less’ sandbag a sensation, says super salesman


It’s white, weighs about a pound and is the size of a pillow. And Brian Flaherty says it is changing how people think about flooding.

Flaherty of Warwick has spent his career selling. He’s traveled the country selling advertising for trade publications, and soon after he got started more than 35 years ago managed the Rhode Island Newspaper Group, RING, an affiliation of community newspaper publishers that continues to operate today.

Now semi-retired, Flaherty’s passion for what he sells is no less intense. He’s persistent and such a believer in these mats selling for $269.95 for a case of 20 that hospitals, universities and municipalities have stockpiled them in anticipation of the next flood.

“They’re the sand-less sandbag,” Flaherty says, pushing a FloodSax across the table. It is soft and if bigger could be a mattress pad. The amazing quality of the FloodSax is its ability to absorb and retain liquid.

“Once you see it, you won’t believe it,” he says, glancing around the room as if looking for a place to hold a demonstration. He offers to bring in a five-gallon bucket of water, but an office isn’t the place.

“Just think if you had a [roof] leak; this would take care of it.”

The FloodSax can absorb 5.89 gallons of water in 3.8 minutes. At that point it weighs 45 pounds and resembles a sandbag. In fact, it can be used like a sandbag to prevent water from entering a building or washing into an area.

But its ability to absorb liquids makes it different from any sandbag. Flaherty said colleges and universities have found it the ideal way to deal with overflowing toilets. He rolls up the FloodSax, showing how it can be easily shaped to do its job.

And being the salesman, he adds, “It’s biodegradable. You just throw it out.”

The FloodSax isn’t limited to soaking up water. They’re good for oil, gasoline and chemical spills, a use Flaherty says his friends with boats have discovered. The mats have found their way into bilges, stinky places that frequently carry an oily sheen.

Flaherty discovered the FloodSax, which were developed seven years ago in England and are manufactured there, last April at a trade show at The Crowne Plaza. He saw the possibilities, and when he did his research on sandbags he was convinced there was an untapped market for the product.

Sandbags, he points out, are difficult to stockpile and have a far shorter shelf life than the FloodSax that can be stored up to five years as long as they are kept in their vacuum-packed bags. Those features, he figures, make up for their added cost. He put the cost of a sandbag at about $10, or $3.50 less than the FloodSax.

So Flaherty formed a company, FloodSax New England, with Paul Balsamo, and the pair is out to spread the word about FloodSax.

Flaherty ticks off some of his customers. They include Warwick Mall, Garden City, Dunkin’ Donuts, the Rhode Island Convention Center, Providence College, Rhode Island School of Design – and that’s not even listing municipalities.

The FloodSaxs are made of wood chips and polymers, Flaherty says without getting into details.

Of course, Flaherty has a slogan for the FloodSax: “Be nice, stay dry.”

And being the consummate salesman, Flaherty leaves a FloodSax on his visit to Beacon offices.

And, yes, we know where to get more when the flood comes.


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