TYPHOONS and heavy monsoon rains have become somewhat of a usual thing in the Philippines. Along with these, Filipino ingenuity has sprung up with the invention of a bag that’s designed to keep vehicles afloat and dry in floodwaters.
Shortly after Typhoon Ondoy devastated parts of the country in 2009, John Echauz, who heads the Standard Insurance claims group, came up with the Floody Car Bag, a device that protects vehicles against flooding.
An industrial engineer by profession, Echauz said that he came about with the idea for the bag after the insurance firm he works for had taken in hundreds of flood-damaged cars after Ondoy.
“We had two warehouses filled with about 500 ruined vehicles, all flooded and muddy, which our company had to pay for. It was depressing. I thought we needed a way to help car owners avoid losses in the future as flooding and long rains are here to stay,” Echauz said.
He added that he then started looking for a bigger version of the waterproof bags with foldable mouths that keep items inside them dry, and even sought foreign suppliers to manufacture the bags. However, nobody seemed interested.
“So my driver and I designed and manufactured the first version ourselves. We tried dozens of types of specially formulated plastic material. We even designed our own test tank—we placed the bag inside it, drove the car into it, closed the tank door then filled it with about two truckloads of water.
“We were surprised to find out that the car floated when the water reached two feet in depth,” Echauz said.
Afterward, Echauz took the project to the professionals.
“When we were happy with our initial design, we brought on my professor from De La Salle’s engineering program to professionalize the bag’s final design and manufacturing process. In the Philippine and US patent applications for the bag, I, my driver and my professor are listed as inventors,” he said.
Echauz noted that they now manufacture the bags on their own. “We even had to make our own equipment—fully DIY.”
Echauz’s co-inventors are Antonino Guion, a technician, and Jessica Gesani, an industrial engineer.
“The bag got its break during last year’s habagat. Today, I think companies will have less patience for people whose cars and assets were damaged unnecessarily,” Echauz noted.
The insurance exec said that he had sold around 200 Floody Car Bags, the buyers of which he considers as “people with foresight.”
He related that someone actually wanted a bag delivered during the height of last week’s flooding caused by Typhoon Maring. “I was thinking, ‘too late.’ Because of our car bag’s availability, I really get frustrated when people’s cars still get flooded while parked at home.
“I guess when it is not raining, even during the rainy season, people are in denial regarding when the floods will occur next,” Echauz said.
The Floody Car Bag comes in two sizes. One is fit for sedans, which is sold for P10,000, and a larger one for SUVs that costs P15,000.
“If I live in a flood-prone area, have a car and P10,000, I’d probably get one. Why? Because, firstly, if my car is old and destroyed, even if it is insured I wouldn’t get enough proceeds to buy a nice replacement. Secondly, if my car is new and not totally destroyed, but insured, I would need to wait a few weeks to a few months to get my car repaired, assuming parts are available. Thirdly, if my car is new and totally destroyed, but insured, I could just wait for my insurance company to replace my car—but that normally takes a few weeks, so I’d still not have a car,” Echauz explained.
“The way I see it, the car bag is not an investment. It’s more like having a fire extinguisher at home. If one doesn’t have a fire extinguisher at home but one can afford one, I would say that reflects one’s ignorance and carelessness,” he said.
Echauz added that should the bag break, he will replace it with a new one. Check the bag at www.floodycarbag.com.