Teaching businesses (and others) how to handle floods … before they happen

Little's Floodproofing.com educates business owners, governmental bodies, builders and more about best practices in storm preparation

The Mount Royal headquarters for Tom Little’s business shows its former life as a school prior to it being transformed into an office space — so much so that Little jokes about instituting a chalkboard eraser clap penalty for coming to work late.

But, it fits for the floodproofing solution company, which Little said, more than any other company out there, bridges an educational gap in the vast network of flood regulations enforced by governmental agencies and municipalities.

“Education is a really big deal for us, so the school theme fits what we’re passionate about,” he said. “We have this awesome training facility inside (our headquarters) and we do companywide conferences, do floodplain manager tests and host professionals who want to learn about the latest codes and ordinances.

“We’re really carrying the torch, so to speak, in this decommissioned school.”

Little is CEO and president of Gloucester County-based Floodproofing.com. It’s one of several businesses in the same portfolio as Smart Vent Products Inc., which has been operating for more than 20 years in New Jersey.

That original company was built around a flood vent meant to protect building foundations, in accordance with standards set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, and other regulatory bodies.

In the late ’90s, a draftsman from the borough of Avalon invented and patented a product that would flip open and not get clogged up in the event of a flood. That eventually became the U.S.-manufactured products sold by Smart Vent Products.

Floodproofing.com includes Smart Vent Products Inc., which manufactures ICC-ES Certified, Engineered Flood Vents that protect homes and buildings during floods by preventing hydrostatic pressure buildup that can destroy walls and foundations.

“If you’ve ever been to the Jersey Shore and seen elevated homes there, our flood vents are going to be around the perimeter of the foundation,” Little said. “If you’re looking at a stainless steel device under that foundation, you’re probably looking at us.”

Other companies were launched to support that original product, including a flood insurance brokerage firm that Little said was meant to solve a longstanding disconnect between mitigation and how it influenced flood insurance rates.

Floodproofing.com was formed to back up the distribution and sales of flood vents with the addition of dry floodproofing products to the catalog of products and a focus on more of the technical side of projects, including assessments, installation, maintenance, inspection and training services.

“We’re working with architects and engineers who need help with the layout of Smart Vent products,” Little said. “We line them up with the appropriate model, take measurements and make sure everything meets federal, state and local building codes and roll it all out with a design team.”

They’ve taken their expertise to buildings such as Atlantic City’s City Hall, a decades-old building that was forced to close when flood waters would reach it. With a FEMA grant, the old building was retrofitted, with the company’s support.

In the wake of damage sustained during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, the company also added floodproof windows to Jersey City Medical Center that could withstand a 1,000-pound flood impact.

You could even trace its fingerprint as far as Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, where it outfitted a 560-bed hospital with a massive flood protection structure.

Mount Royal, N.J.-based Floodproofing.com recently acquired Flood Panel, which manufactures several floodproofing products including Super Flood Log (pictured), Custom Flood Panel, hinged flood gates and dual-function flood doors.

“The fact is, no matter where you are, floods are way more frequent than they were even 10 years ago,” Little said. “There’s a lot of science out there on that. Flood events are happening more often — with multiple 1,000-year rain events occurring in a given year. Couple that with communities that have undersized storm weather systems, and a lot of areas just can’t handle heavy rainfall events.”

Little also is co-founder of the Flood Mitigation Industry Association, a nonprofit that’s trying to bring more awareness to flood mitigation — to counter the main focus being on disaster recovery after catastrophic events have already struck. In this capacity, he’s been attending meetings with House of Representatives and Senate committees to talk about prevention of damage for municipalities nationwide.

After having seen firsthand the damage caused by Sandy and 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, Little said education in this area is the only counter to a lot of devastation and heartache.

“Seeing that really puts everything in perspective, in terms of why we do this day in and day out,” he said. “I’m really passionate about that mission. And we have 65 people here in our organization that share that same passion.”