Flood Control – a new way of thinking

Small Business Canada

Richard Gurberg, President – Creatium Equipment

How would you describe your journey with more than 30 years of experience in the business field?

Varied and dynamic. Started in the auto window tint and the accessory world and never imagined by midlife I’d be claiming to be a seasoned businessman with experience in such varied products and services as garment manufacturing and distribution, vacation rentals, business analytics software and flood prevention and water management equipment. The most interesting aspect of the journey is having learned that as different as each product and business is, there are some very major similarities that exist between all of them.

Flooding is a natural process that cannot be prevented, but what are the ways to reduce the damages caused when it happens?

While we clearly cannot stop the flooding, what we can do is recognize that being prepared for flooding provides us with at least a chance of protecting our communities, both people and property.

Individuals and municipalities now have a pretty good idea as to where the lower laying lands are, and where the water tends to come from (whether river and lake overflow, mountain snow runoff, swamps, lagoons and other poor drainage areas). The challenge of course is to protect these areas, the best we can, in advance of the flooding. 

I cannot stress enough how important it is to plan, plan, plan. 

Too often we get calls to smack in the middle of a flooding event with requests for equipment that is needed yesterday. These calls come in simply too late as time is needed to produce and ship the products.

Having what is needed, in case (and before) it is needed, puts the community miles ahead.

Creatium carries a variety of products designed to help Canadians face this challenge, each with its own pros and cons.

What impact does the flooding have on the environment? What are the preventive measures to reduce the effect?

Mostly destruction of infrastructure, but also disruption to wildlife, ecosystems, river, stream and water pollution, landscapes and in the most extreme case, human lives. The products listed in (2) are all designed to reduce the impact on the environment caused by flooding.

What are some of the best practices used by the construction industry for flood prevention and/or water management? Are they able to succeed in them?

The construction industry does not typically get involved with flooding. The industry does often however require dewatering equipment, which is needed specifically to provide work crews with a dry work environment in areas where water prevails (dams, bridges, canals/culverts, roadways, pipelines, marinas/piers, waterfronts, etc). The most popular solution for these companies is the Aqua Barrier cofferdams as they can be transported to any location, configured and filled as needed, and when the job is completed, simply emptied, rolled up and reused again for the next construction project.

How does Creatium support companies and inventors in developing ideas? What is your expert opinion about this?

Interesting question! I would not say we have contributed much to new product development. What we do is work with our suppliers to come up with innovative uses for the existing products. Each environment is unique and requires a concerted effort to consider each product and where and how it will be used, sometimes even in a combined solution (ex: Aqua Barriers with Sandbags filling gaps at one end butted against a concrete wall). 

We also study all other products on the market and evaluate them to see if they might complement our assortment of products offered (this is how we grew from offering only Sandbag machines to the current assortment).  There are quite a number of substandard and difficult to use, or cost-ineffective products out there….so we have chosen very carefully which to include or not.

As your company operates in between human, design, engineering, architecture, production, and marketing, what do you think are the advantages of operating in these fields?

Also interesting question. The company evolved after witnessing the challenges, difficulties and human suffering experienced during the 2017 and 2019 flooding in Quebec. And the human side of that very real experience highlighted 2 things very clearly: 

1 – That the logistics required to manually fill sandbags with volunteers are difficult, stressful, ineffective, and exhausting. 

2 – That the entire concept that the people in flooded communities most affected by flooding, pumping water out of their basements, suffering sleepless nights watching the waters encroach their homes, etc.. are expected to be the ones to “volunteers” to make sandbags to save their own homes and business, is ludicrous and even cruel and unfair. 

(this drove our motto to become: “There has got to be a better way”).

In particular, given that engineering talents have successfully tackled this and produced products such as the Sandbagger, the AquaBarrier, and the FloodStop Barrier, that replace these manual efforts with effective solutions, there is no reason to continue doing things in such an outdated way.

And then of course to bridge the gap, it comes down to education…letting people know these products exist.  And this is achieved through marketing. Lots and lots of marketing. And so, in a way, Creatium may supply all types of equipment, but the biggest challenge is to educate the affected communities and make sure they know that there is indeed a better way. In this way, well-executed and effective marketing is probably the most important thing we do.

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