Flooding is a naturally occurring disaster that has become one of the the most deadly weather related phenomenons in the United States. The loss of any life during a disaster is tragic and, in many cases, unavoidable, but the majority of flood related deaths in the United States are preventable.
The National Weather Service keeps detailed records of disaster related deaths for the United States. Based on their records, a total of 1,967 flood related deaths have occurred since 1995. Out of these deaths, 50% of the deaths were vehicle related flood deaths. In 2017 there were an estimated 116 flood related deaths with 34% involving vehicles while in 2015 there were 176 flood related deaths with 64% involving vehicles.
With such a high percentage of preventable deaths occurring in vehicles, there has never been a more important prevention slogan than Turn Around Don’t Drown®.
During flood events, it is always recommended that if you are in a place that is reasonable safe from flooding, to stay in place to ride out the storm. It is understood that this may not be possible so when experiencing flooding follow these safety rules as developed by the National Weather Service:
- Get to higher ground. Stay away from flood-prone areas, including dips, low spots, valleys, ditches, washes, etc.
- Avoid flooded areas or those with rapid water flow. Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream. It takes only six inches of fast flowing water to sweep you off your feet.
- Don’t allow children to play near high water, storm drains or ditches. Hidden dangers could lie beneath the water.
- Flooded roads could have significant damage hidden by floodwaters. NEVER drive through floodwaters or on flooded roads. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Water only two feet deep can float away most automobiles.
- Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly when threatening conditions exist.
- Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
- Monitor NOAA Weather Radio or your local media for vital weather related information.
If you unfortunately find yourself in a vehicle that has driven in flood waters remember this potentially life saving tips (Sources Cars.com):
- Stay calm. You’ll need your wits about you.
- Turn on your headlights and hazard lights. This will make it easier for emergency personnel to see you.
- Unbuckle your seat belt.
- Unlock your doors.
- Take jackets and outer clothing off.
- Lower your window slowly. Most electric windows should work unless the car is completely submerged in water.
- If you can lower the windows, climb out. Get to high ground and call 911.
- If the windows will not open, you’ll have to use a door to get out. But you won’t be able to open a door until the water pressure is equalized between the outside and the inside of the car. This means you’ll have to wait for water to enter the car and fill up to about your neck level (this sounds terrifying, but this is the only way the doors will open).
- Once the doors are open, swim to safety and call 911.
- Do not panic.
- Do not use your energy trying to open the doors because water pressure will keep them from budging (wait for the pressure to equalize).
- Do not try to save your possessions.
- Do not try to break windows to get out. If water pressure has not equalized, glass will explode inward toward you or other occupants.
- Once out, do not stay with your car. Get to high ground.
- Do not stand on the roof of your car. If your car is swept away, you’ll be carried away with it. You could also fall and injure yourself if the car shifts abruptly.
- Do not return to your car if you think the water level is going down. Water levels could rise without warning. Allow emergency personnel to tow your vehicle to a safe place.