Just a foot or two of water can flush everything from sedans to trucks. Experts urge drivers to avoid flooded crossings and remember a few steps in distress.
As Hurricane Ida brought torrential rains to the northeast, flash floods flooded cars, trapped passengers and caused people to drown.
In the aftermath of the storm, emergency rescue workers and safety experts are urging people to learn how to stay safe in dangerous storms.
His advice begins with a warning: Don’t try to cross a flooded road. Most vehicles, from small sedans to large trucks, will be swept away in just one to two feet of water.
But during flash floods, many drivers do not realize the danger at the crossing.
Determining the exact number of accidental drownings in cars is difficult because vehicle fatalities are classified differently from region to region. gordon gisbrecht, a professor at the University of Manitoba who has studied drowning and human responses to extreme environments. But he estimated that about 350 to 400 people a year in the United States and Canada drown in their cars when their vehicle is overturned or caught in a flood.
Urging people to get out of their vehicle at the earliest, he said that it may be a very short time before the water becomes inevitable. A vehicle that is being transported can also roll over, making it nearly impossible to escape. “The bottom line is if the car stops in the water, get out and onto the roof,” Dr. Gisbrecht said.
“If it’s flooding, never drive on a flooded road,” said Rescue 3 International instructor Michael Berna. Which trains military and emergency personnel on water rescue. Many people, he said, “continue to believe in it that they will make it the other way. Before they know it, it is too late.”
‘Seat belt. windows. Outside.’
Your car has stopped. The water is rising. Panic is brewing.
The next thing rescuers want you to remember is an acronym, SWOC – Seatbelt, Window, Out, Children First.
Experts say the priority should not be to call 911 or open the door – the weight of the water against the vehicle would make it impossible, Dr. Gisbrecht said.
People “don’t think well under stress,” he said. “They fall back on instinct or things they’ve heard all their lives, like let the car fill up with water so that it equalizes the pressure. The problem is, by then you’ll be dead.”
Best chance of survival, Dr. As Gisbrecht said, following these steps would come:
Remove your seatbelt.
Roll your window down immediately (power windows should still work after the engine has stopped).
If you have kids with you, push them first before leaving. Start with the eldest – an older child may be more likely to hang onto a seatbelt or car roof, allowing you to help smaller children.
Climb onto the roof of your car and hang whatever you can. Pull the seatbelt strap off the car, or hold onto the rail, if possible. Then call 911. Rescuers are more likely to see you on top of a vehicle rather than inside a vehicle filled with water.
But rescue experts say that first of all, it is most important to try to avoid such a crisis. For almost 20 years, a public safety campaign called “Turn over, don’t drown,” The U.S. has warned drivers to cross flooded roads and stay off the road during dangerous storms.
Craig Gerardhandjob NS The rescue course director at Raven Rescue in British Columbia said many people seemed to be in dangerous flooding conditions “because they are in the comfort of their own car and need the comfort of their family and loved ones.”
Can car tech or a window breaker help?
In Australia and New Zealand, an independent group that gives safety ratings to new vehicles That said, starting in 2023, It will award more points to manufacturers who equip cars with systems that will help one escape the car in case of a flood.
To qualify for the higher safety rating, cars must demonstrate that doors can be opened from inside and outside without battery power and that electric windows will operate for 10 minutes, according to the agency. Australian New Car Assessment Programme.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement that there There were no requirements “or plans for future requirements with respect to submerged vehicles.”
Consumers should not expect carmakers in the United States to make such technology, said David Caden, professor emeritus of entrepreneurship and strategy at Quinnipiac University.
“I haven’t heard of any new engineering approaches to increase the survivability of a routine accident and I haven’t heard much in terms of survivability of a car going into the water,” Professor Caden said.
What about getting a car window breaker that will shatter the glass?
Dr. Gisbrecht said he has two of them – one for each of his vehicles. But he said he doesn’t believe he’ll be able to find it in the glove compartment or center console in a moment of panic. Some survival videos recommend using the headrest to break the side window, But that method can waste precious seconds of escape time Only to prove pointless with thick glass or a well-installed headrest.
“You need two main tools,” Dr. Gisbrecht said. “You need your brain to remember the SWOC and you need your finger to push the button on your electronic window.”
Are the practice exercises worth it?
The exercise, Dr. Gisbrecht said, “is a great idea.”
And kids can really enjoy crawling in and out of the window, he said.
“Very easy to do,” said Dr. Gisbrecht. “No cost and it could save your life.”
Judy Kuriansky, a psychologist and emergency mental health responder, agreed that such training was “extremely important,” with the caveat that parents should calmly explain the goal of the exercise.
“If you say, ‘The water’s coming in, and it’s flowing and you’re drowning and you can’t breathe,’ it will be painful,” Dr. Kuriansky said.
Instead, she offered advice, saying: “Everyone has emergencies. We all have emergencies and there are things we can do to prevent getting into trouble and keep ourselves safe. “
Mr. Gerrardhandjob NS The rescue course director in British Columbia said he questioned whether the exercise regimen would help in a moment of panic. Even in professional training exercises, where flood waters are simulated and people are wearing lives, the rushing, cold water will cause shock and fear.
“I think it’s like a glass breaker,” said Mr. Gerrard. “You can have it, but in times of need is your training really going to cause muscle memory?”
He recommended taking a day off to try and find alternative routes home.
“Knowing an escape route that has a high ground – it’s a good thing to pre-plan,” he said. “It also calms people’s nerves.”
However, Captain Berna said he encouraged people to practice getting out of a flooded car.
“Absolutely,” he said. “But, once again, they should never be placed under these circumstances.”