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Monday, March 15, 2010
Arrive Alive: How to get out of a submerged vehicle
The first and most important thing to remember, if your vehicle is submerged, is to remain CALM-easier said than done-but it's the most important thing you can do to stay alive. Staying focused on the situation is a necessary part of surviving a water crash.
In most water crashes, a vehicle will float for a period of 3 or 4 minutes before the weight of the engine pulls the vehicle under. This precious time may allow you to unbuckle your seat belt, roll down your window and get out. Don't waste time trying to open the door because the water's pressure will be pushing against the door preventing it from opening.
If the vehicle is immediately pulled under water, you will need to wait until the water level inside the vehicle completely fills the vehicle. This will equalize the pressure and you will be able to open the door. However, if you don’t have the old-time hand operated roll down windows and manual door locks, you will have a problem since once the electric windows and door locks get wet, they won’t work.
Many experts recommend that if you cannot immediately get out of the vehicle before it sinks, keep your seatbelt in the locked position. This is important since if you cannot open the door you will now have to break the window to get out. Remember you can only break the driver or passenger's side windows as the front and rear windshields are made of tempered glass and are very difficult to break.
It is a good idea to have something in your vehicle that can break the window. A spring-loaded center punch available at any hardware store is one item or an escape hammer available in most auto parts stores is recommended. Whichever you decide, it must be attached securely to the dashboard or driver's side door where you can easily reach it. Once you break the window and if the interior of the vehicle is not completely filled with water, the water will rush in. That is why it's suggested you keep your seatbelt in the locked position so the rush of water doesn't push and trap you underneath the dashboard.
Now is the time to unlock your seatbelt and get out of the vehicle. Swim up to the surface, get your bearings and only go back down to the submerged vehicle if there is another person trapped in the vehicle and you have the necessary swimming and rescue skills to do so.
Although the need to escape from a submerged vehicle is rare, you now have a plan to help you escape if you are ever involved in a water crash.
Gerald M. Dworkin
P.O. Box 905 • 71 Main St.
Harrisville, NH 03450