2005 – 2009: becoming a global network
After meeting for the first time at an international workshop in St. Petersburg, barrier managers from The Netherlands, UK and Russia found common ground and ambition in their work on storm surge barriers. They realised that they were (and still are) dealing with similar challenges. Therefore, Dutch storm surge barrier managers visited their barrier colleagues the UK in March 2006, and produced a report entitled ‘Learning from others’. In October of the same year our network became official. It was founded and launched as The International Network of Storm Surge Barrier Managers (INSSBM) during our first Steering Committee meeting and the three day international conference.
Over the next year, the INSSBM Steering Committee met to develop the network, agreeing its ambitions, arranging its funding and deciding its communication methods, before the second international conference took place. This conference was held in July 2007 in Venice and was hosted by our new member Consorzio Venezia Nuova.
During the following years, the INSSBM continued to host annual conferences as well as visit each other’s storm surge barriers to share knowledge and expertise between members, which helped raise awareness of INSSBM. In 2009 delegates from the INSSBM were even invited to present their knowledge at the Flood Protection exhibition in Brno, Czech Republic. To improve the network the INSSBM also met with the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) to exchange knowledge on running an international network, and how they organise their peer reviews – one of I-STORM’s staple products today. INSSBM continued to grow during this time, with more barriers and organisations joining the network.
2010 – 2016: expanding network activities
To enable participation by not just managers of storm surge barriers, but those who work on the maintenance and operations too, the network decided to rebrand. Therefore in 2010 INSSBM renamed itself to I-STORM, the International network for storm surge barriers.
In May 2010, the very first I-STORM Peer Review was carried out on the Thames Barrier (UK). The success of this event led to a second Peer Review taking place one year later on the Eastern Scheldt (NL), and a third on the Rampsol Barrier (NL) in 2012. I-STORM’s first technical support mission also took place in 2012. Barrier colleagues from The Netherlands and the UK travelled to Venice to exchange knowledge and expertise on how a flood prediction model can be made reliable. Also in 2012 the first I-STORM website was launched, giving members a platform to access information. 2013 saw the first I-STORM visit to Galveston (USA), where new storm surge barriers were being considered. An official I-STORM Network Coordinator was recruited as well, to help manage the running of the ever-growing network.
I-STORM continued to flourish through 2014 and in to 2015. The steering committee was reorganised into a Strategic and a Delivery Board in October, alongside the formation of three key workstreams: Knowledge Management, Risk Based Asset Management and Peer Review. In the following year, the network formalised further, as the membership was given a structure with Core, Barrier and Associate levels of membership.
2016 – 2019: professionalising the network
Over the next few years, I-STORM continued to work on its key aims and objectives. The 5th international Peer Review took place in South Louisiana, the Peer Review team met again with WANO to develop the Peer Review process and Annual Meetings were hosted in The Netherlands (Eastern Scheldt 2016), USA (New Orleans 2017) and UK (Ipswich 2018). During this period the first domestic I-STORM network was also formed. In this network Dutch barrier professionals come together to share their knowledge and expertise on a national level and are supported by I-STORM’s international network.
In March 2019, the first I-STORM Gate Design Workshop took place in Galveston, Texas. The event was designed to help the Coastal Texas team identify what gate types would be most suitable for the proposed barrier in Galveston Bay. Another new product, the Operational Review, also took place in 2019. I-STORM teams travelled to Venice to carry out the review on the MOSE system.
Continuing on to the present day, I-STORM continues to grow. A new coordination team was established in 2019, to support almost 30 member organisations. Inspired by the Dutch national network, further domestic networks have been established in the UK and the USA to share knowledge to improve the performance of their storm surge barriers on a national level.