How We Created Flex-Gate®

How We Created Flex-Gate®

When Superstorm Sandy slammed into New York City on October 29, 2012, it caused billions of dollars in damage and took the lives of 43 people. Forty-six miles of subway track ended up underwater. The storm forced 11 billion gallons of raw sewage into Hewlett Bay and left 250,000 people in Manhattan without power.

Before Sandy hit, the New York City Transit Authority (NYCT) deployed vertical barricades of wood and sandbags to protect subways. These barriers were stored off-site and time- consuming to install.

On the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, NYCT was introduced to ILC Dover by people familiar with our Resilient Tunnel Plug (RTP) project, a Department of Homeland Security initiative that was initiated to address potential terrorism events that could occurr in tunnels.

ILC Dover performed a demo of the RTP system in the NYC subway. Based upon the demo, a team of engineers from ILC Dover were invited to New York City in 2013 to meet with NYCT officials and present concepts for protecting subway entrances from flood waters. NYCT, along with several architecture and engineering (A&E) firms, requested that ILC Dover fabricate and test a prototype Stairwell Flex-Gate®.

The new product had specific and demanding requirements. It had to withstand impact from a piece of timber 1’ in diameter and 12’ long moving at 1 foot per second. It had to provide a barrier against 16 feet of water and withstand waves 1 foot high moving at 5 feet per second. It had to be deployable in winds up to 60 MPH, simple enough to use that one or two workers could deploy it in minutes, and compact so it wouldn’t impede commuters when stored at the point of use.

Back at ILC Dover headquarters, our team rolled up its sleeves and went to work. After significant effort, they came up with a product that met NYCT’s stringent requirements. They named it Stairwell Flex-Gate. During the strenuous testing period, Flex-Gate proved that it has the strength, durability and ease of deployment to satisfy NYCT’s needs.

ILC Dover’s Stairwell Flex-Gate provides superior protection in the event of a storm. 

Flex-Gate functions like a high-strength, horizontal window shade that covers subway entrances to prevent water from entering. It’s constructed from rugged, textile-based materials and corrosion-resistant hardware and stored in a container mounted at a stairwell opening. Flex-Gate can be deployed by 1-2 people in less than 15 minutes.

Eight months after the meeting with NYCT officials, ILC Dover installed a prototype Flex- Gate in a subway entrance at a Canal Street station stairwell. In 2016 and 2017, ILC built and installed 23 Flex-Gates that were customized for subway entrances throughout Manhattan in New York City.

The success of Flex-Gate technology for stairwells paved the way for innovative ILC Dover products stored at the point of use in other situations. Our protective Flex-Wall® system addresses openings from one foot to 14 feet in height and from five feet to over 50 feet in length; the Flex-Cover® is used to protect grate openings; and the Portal Flex-Gate® is vertically deployed to seal off doorways, garage entrances or portals. ILC Dover is developing the Flex-Cover® Door and Window product that will provide protection for small businesses and residential properties.

The wide assortment of ILC Dover products support needs in New York City and elsewhere. In New York City, we installed 26 Stairwell Flex-Gates for NYCT and more than 60 Side Deploy Flex-Walls for a major power utility company and the NYC Housing Authority. In the next year, we will deliver more than 40 more Stairwell Flex-Gates for locations in multiple NYC boroughs. This summer, we will install Flex-Walls at NYU Langone and the Department of Justice building in Washington, DC.

We are providing solutions for the World Trade Center (WTC) including Flex-Walls (Vertical Deploy, Side Deploy and Roll-Up versions), Flex-Covers (for vent openings) and Flex-Gates for stairwells near the WTC Memorial site.

On June 8, the Stairwell Flex-Gate system was awarded 2017 Project of the Year for projects under $20M by the Construction Management Association of America, Metro New York/New Jersey Chapter as part of the ILC Dover project for NYCT and AECOM.

ILC Dover’s Infrastructure Protection technology isn’t only a response to the needs of big cities; it’s a response to the times we live in—recent research shows the number of major floods has doubled since 2004. As the debate rages on about whether global warming is the catalyst for this change, ILC Dover will continue to use our knowledge of materials, soft goods and film-based solutions to create products that help keep people, property and city infrastructures safe.