Steven M. Hoefflin, M.D., F.I.C.S., F.A.C.S.
Past Associate Professor of Surgery (Plastic)
UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, California




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After practicing Surgery for the last 51 years, I have just seen too many children injured and killed in mudslides all over the world. This technique has been introduced and used with the Los Angeles Fire Department and Rescue Services.

After the nightmare of a Wildfire, children can again be terrified, and their lives jeopardized by large, fast moving mudslides.


In the usual case, protection for a home, from mudslides, can be obtained by building large expensive cement and brick walls that may take weeks. Even then, large and rapid moving mudslides can directly break through these walls and jeopardize a child’s life and well-being.

The tremendous disadvantage to using sand bags or solid barriers is that: (a) these are usually expensive (b) they require several workers (c) it takes a long time to complete (d) they are not constructed using good mathematical principles, (e) the supplies need to be physically carried in, (f) set up, and (g) carried out afterwards and (h) the site usually needs to be repaired or restored.

Based on Directional Physics, a vectorized barrier can be rapidly built to protect against mudslides using large plain or biodegradable water/dirt filled plastic bags. When placed in a “Reverse V Formation”, these barrier bags can easily direct the mud current to the sides of the home and out onto the streets. This technique can also be used to protect barns, groups of cars, and its triangular size is adjustable up or down.

One great benefit is that all the simple and inexpensive supplies can be gathered into a moderate size package and stored on site for an emergency. Unlike a permanent wall, this is a temporary and adjustable barrier which can be rapidly placed and replaced.

This technique is easy to understand by using a sheet of paper and a pencil. Draw a palm size square home in the center of the paper. Now, draw a line from the 2 corners of the home up to the center edge of the paper. Now, this is your square home with a triangular area located on one side your home. When the mud is flowing towards your home, it will be diverted from the tip of the triangle to the sides and around your home down to the street or below. Your neighbor can also build the same barrier.

With a standard cement block wall, the tremendous force of moving mud will crash directly against this type of wall and topple it. Our type of barrier merely splits and diverts the mudflow. For thousands of years, this technique has been used to divert powerful river flows.

As is seen so many times on TV, the physics is not very much different than a 90 pound, 90-year-old woman simply raising her forearm, diverting a punch from a 300-pound mugger, and watching him fall to her side and slide down the street.

“THE SET-UP”: With 4 people, depending on the number of barrier bags to be placed, this should take from 6-12 hours to complete.

Supplies:  Four small shovels, 150 Large Plastic or Biodegradable Barrier Trash Bags, 200 twist ties, 4 long garden hoses and 4 water buckets. 

If more strength is needed, one or more bags can be placed inside another bag. To secure them together, punch a hole in both sides at the top of the bags. Then, a tie strip can be threaded through the top 2 layers of the bags and then separately tied together. When finished, this will look like 2 bags that have handles on both sides.



  1. Determine which side of your home the mudslide will approach. Find the 2 outer corners of your home facing the oncoming mudslide. Mark the corners by placing a stone, stake, etc. at those points.  

  2. Measure the number of steps from one corner of the house to the other corner.Make a triangular shape by stepping off the same distance and directing an angled line from each corner of your home to the upper central tip of the triangle.

  3. At the tip, place one stake. Place 3 separate markers each along the line from the corner of the house to the tip of the triangle. This is now the triangular line where the barrier will be constructed.

  4. Lay a large number (50-100) of Large Plastic or Biodegradable Barrier Trash Bags side to side flat across the line, from the corners of the house to the tip of the triangle. This will look like a series of flags laid down. The bags will be filled exactly where they sit.

  5. The Dirt, used to fill the bags, should be shoveled up from the outside of this line. This will help form a “Trough” which will help direct the flowing mud around the sides of the house.

  6. For practice, a “TEST-RUN” should be performed first with just one bag.

  7. These bags should be held upright by one person and another person will fill the bags ¾ full. The extra space will be used to twist, tie, and close the bag.

  8. Depending on the availability of sufficient dirt and water, the following are the “Fill Options”:

    • DIRT AND WATER:  Open the upright bag, fill it with one or 2 shovels full of dirt. Then, place the open end of a garden hose inside the bag, twist tie around the hose, and fill the bag up to ¾ full of the addition of water. Pull out the hose and double twist tie it close. Shake or mold the bag, or

    • : Fill 1/2 of the bag with dirt, or

    • : Fill the bags ½ full of water.

  9. Set the bags upright, pull out the hose and twist tie it again.

  10. Lay the bags flat, end to end, so the twist ties are together. Twist tie them together for stability.  

  11. Forming a strong and secure “Triangle Tip” construction is very important. At the very top, 2 bags are laid on the sides forming a “point”. This will look exactly like your fingers and hands placed together forming a point to “pray”. When you put your thumbs together, you can look down and see that there is a triangular space between the finger tips and the thumbs. Flat barrier bags will then be placed to fill that space. This will provide great sharpness and abundant strength to the tip.

  12. Additionally, it is very important that, if necessary, you can create a barrier that is 5 barrier bags high and 5 bags thick. Several additional “hedge rows” of bags can be set up. A moderately powerful mudslide can then be diverted.

  13. When the danger passes, the bags can be opened on the spot and the dirt and water poured out.

  14. All of the above referenced supplies can be purchased at any home construction company store or from (I have no business connection):

    “Aust and Asia Plastic bags”:  Phone: +61 2 9550 1616,  +61 2 9550 2202
    Fax +61 2 9550-5154    Email :  Bags@austnasia.com.au