Inflatable Pipe Plugs prevent Chicago City Flood in underground train tunnels.

16 Feb 2021

When Chicago had a small leak in an empty tunnel, it increased and started to flood. Eventually, it poured throughout the entire tunnel network.

Over 250,000 people had to be evacuated from the buildings above the flood which caused almost $2 billion in damages.  To dry the tunnels, this took an additional 6 weeks.

Imagine if this occurred in Melbourne’s underground…. the cost in lives and infrastructure would be enormous.

Technology in the inflatable arena has stepped up to the plate to provide an innovative and immediate solution to this very serious threat to Melbourne’s underground section of its train system.  To isolate or seal a part of a train system’s underground tunnel is imperative and must be able to occur at any given moment before flooding can become a danger and a threat.  To attempt to retrofit removable doors will be too costly and tie up the transit system for a long period of time

Because underground tunnels have uneven surfaces due to the tracks, pipes, lights etc, the design of the seal needed to cater for this irregularity.

The solution is a giant inflatable pipe plug to seal off flooding or dangerous gases in underground tunnels. The inflatable pipe plug is affordable, easy to install, and can be inflated at a moment’s notice. Its added benefit is that once deflated, it packs away to the size of a pallet which can easily be stored in the underground tunnel until required for an emergency, always on standby.

Because the pipe plug is flexible, it can fill in all the irregular surfaces to give a complete seal. The material needs to be flexible and big enough to fill all the crevices but not too big so that water can seep through crevices formed in folding the material.

Added to the irregular tunnel, a flooded tunnel contains a lot of water pressure and the pipe plug needs to be able to restrain that backpressure. Again the inflatable pipe plug design and fabric satisfied these complications.

Three separate layers using a commercially available fabric meant the pipe plugs were affordable.