June 26, 2012

How to Escape a Sinking Car

According to auto insurers and groups, more than 11,000 accidents end up in the water and around 300-400 people die each year from being trapped in a sinking car.  Sometimes cars go off embankments into rivers, ponds or lakes.  There is one thing that specialists agree on: if you don’t have a plan, panic sets in and you and your family will die.
There are so many unaccountable factors that effect how a self rescue will look and go.  So just like life, there is no step by step plan.  But there are basics that you need to remember so you and your family have the opportunity to survive.

Get out of the car immediately!  However possible.  Most of the time the car will remain buoyant for at least a minute or two before it tips down in the direction of the motor and sinks.  It has been shown many times over, during experiments, that if you wait until the car is submerged it will take a lot longer to open the door than you think.  Even when the car is 100% full of water, it still takes a few moments for the pressure to equalize.  It is very possible that you could run out of air by the time that happens.

So as soon as you hit the water roll down the windows and turn the lights on.  Even electric windows will work for a little while in the water.

Res-Q-Me is a revolutionary tool that just may save your life.   In fact, every member of your family, including your kids, need to have one and be taught how to use it.  They are under $10 and go on a key ring.  The product works like this: if the window and door will not open while you are sinking,  place the tool on the window and push the button, it will shatter the glass immediately.  (I recommend taking the family out and letting them practice smashing windows with this tool.)    At that point you are able to leave out of the broken window.  If you find yourself trapped by your seat belt, the Res-Q-Me has a belt cutter built into it.  On a side note, don’t try the front windshield, it is reinforced and will take a lot to break.

Most pro’s in the field now say that it is better to leave your seat belt on until you are able to exit the vehicle.  It has been show on Discovery Channel's MythBusters that the car could possibly flip upside down unexpectedly.  When a car flips underwater, without the occupant being buckled in, it disorientates the occupant causing panic.  However, if you remain belted in, you at least know where you are in relation to the door and your children even if you are submerged.

If you do not have any tool to help you break the glass and you can't get your window down or door open fast enough, you have only one option.  Obviously you will want to try and break the window at any costs, but if you can't, wait for the equalization to happen.  What this means is you will sink and let the car  completely fill up with water.  You can keep trying the door as it is filling up, but remember the door probably will not open until a few moments after the pressure eases up.  The force of all the water is pushing in on the car, this is what is keeping the door shut.  Basically it is your muscle pushing against the weight of the body of water.  Once the water has filled the inside of the vehicle, the pressure should release.  Please note it will not open immediately.   So remember this:

                                  Car + Filled Water + A Few Extra Moments = Open Door
Whatever you do, don’t panic when the door doesn’t open.  Stay calm, give it a few seconds, and then try again.

Think about you and your children's rescue as one.  If not, and you vacate the car first, the car could sink.  In the murky, black water you may not be able to find your way back to the car leaving your children in a watery grave.  So, once you have secured an exit for your family, release you and your children’s belts and exit the vehicle at the same time.  If your children are smaller, you will have to keep a hold of them any way you can.  If you have more than one child, you may need to grab their clothing, arms or whatever.  (I am going to do some further research on the best way to get children out and follow this article up at a later date.)

At certain depths, you can become disorientated and not know which way is up.  You would eventually figure it out but it could be to late.  
During the day you could follow the sun light, but at night it will be pitch black.  Also, some water maybe so murky you will not know which way to go even in the day light.  So the best thing to do is let out a few bubbles and see which way they go.

No one ever dreams of finding themselves in this kind of scenario.  But by staying calm, thinking through the steps of self rescue, and remembering to keep your kids with you it is possible to get out of a sinking car.

1 comment:

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