Would you know what to do if your car got trapped in flood waters?

Published: May. 6, 2022 at 5:31 PM CDT
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ROGERSVILLE, Mo. (KY3) - You’ve heard the saying so many times.

“Turn around, don’t drown.”

Yet local law enforcement agencies and fire departments have been busy the last couple of days as they usually are any time there’s a major rain event with water rescues involving cars traveling on flooded roadways.

“People either don’t see it or think they can get through it,” said Logan-Rogersville Fire Chief Richard Stirts. “With population growth in southeast Greene County we’re seeing more and more people driving off into the water. Yesterday alone we did 10 water rescues between Greene and Christian counties. Along with that we had our normal day of calls which included a couple of lightening strikes, structure fires and a car wreck. So we didn’t get much sleep.”

And so you don’t lose sleep worrying about what to do if you drive into floodwaters and get trapped, Stirts offered some advice on what to do if you are stranded in rising waters.

“The first thing you need to do is stay with your car,” he said. “The best way to stay alive is to stay in the car if you can to keep from getting swept away. Roll down the window if at all possible so rescuers can get to you. With electric windows the sooner the better as far as opening them because they can get shorted out. If you have the old crank-type that you hardly see anymore, you can wait longer. If the water’s coming up you’re going to have to judge the situation. I would say when it gets to the bottom of your seat or you’re sitting in water that’s the time you’re going to have to figure out how to crawl through the window. You’re going to be in a panic mode but just slow down, grab the steering wheel, put your butt up on the window and climb out onto the top of the vehicle. If your car starts to sink obviously you’re going to have to get off the roof but if you get away from your vehicle, logs or other debris can hit you, knock you out and wash you down the river.”

Since most cars do have electric windows, a loss of power could mean the window won’t go down. So it’s a good idea to carry a device that can break the window from the inside called an Emergency Window Punch. They are widely available in many different styles.

Logan-Rogersville Assistant Chief Tim Clarkson showed us a model that the water rescue team carries with them. It was bright yellow with a hammer shape on one end and a cutting device on the other end.

“This is one of the window punches and seat belt cutters that glows in the dark,” he explained. “It’s got a point on both sides and basically you’d swing it just like a hammer at the bottom corner of your windshield. And in the event your seat belt locks up you do have the option with the seat belt cutter on this one to cut that belt.”

Stirts pointed out that you should be careful when you use the glass puncher to keep the broken pieces from cutting you.

“If you have sunglasses or glasses, something to protect your face, you just lean away from the window and reach out to hit the window to break it,” he said. “It doesn’t take much force for those punches to break it. But the shards of glass can cut you.”

Also remember that if you’re not in immediate danger, the first thing you should do is contact authorities.

“Get on your phone, call 9-1-1, give them all the information and listen to what the dispatcher has to tell you,” Stirts said. “They will guide you through some of this stuff. Don’t get out in the water until there’s somebody there to help you even though the water may look shallow and not look swift. Just wait for the rescuers to come if at all possible because once you get out you’re prone to be swept away.”

Stirts also said that if you do leave your car abandoned in floodwaters to still call 9-1-1 and let authorities know. Rescue teams are commonly called out to sites where cars are stranded on water-covered roads and spend hours looking for possible victims not knowing that the occupants have already gotten to safety.

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