While several countries have recently been hit by floods, a text that has been passed on tens of thousands of times on Facebook since June 6 claims to indicate the actions you must take when you are in a car that is under water or sinking. . In particular, he suggests not opening the windows and smashing the rear window of the vehicle to get out. But rescuers recommend opening the windows as a priority, as two firefighters explain to AFP, which also qualifies some of the advice given in these publications.
From France to Brazil to South Africa, many parts of the world have suffered from major floods in recent months.
This danger is all the more worrying in France, as it poses the first natural risk in the country to which 17.1 million inhabitants are exposed, as the Ministry of Ecological Transformation points out on its website.
In this context, Facebook publications (1, 2, 3) that claim to list the good reflexes to use if you get flooded behind the wheel of your car have been very successful.
Screenshot taken from Facebook on June 13, 2022.
Screenshot taken from Facebook on June 13, 2022.
“Many people have died by drowning simply because they did not know it. If you are underwater in a car, do not panic. 1. Do not waste your energy trying to push the door open 2. Do not open the window, the force of the water entering the car will not allow you to get out 3. Remove the headrest 4. Use the sharp steel tip and smash the rear window, where it says ” kick-out glass ”“, says this text shared tens of thousands of times according to its front pages on the social network since June 6, 2022.
“The car is supposed to float in water and the rear window always faces the exit. It can save your life“, concludes this so-called survival guide, whose supposed benefits are praised by many internet users in the comments:”It is good to know“,”thank you for the information“,”Interesting to know“…
However, if some of these tips are actually helpful when you are in a sinking car, it is particularly contraindicated to close the windows of the vehicle, as two firefighters explain to AFP.
Priority: “open all windows”
“The first action to be taken in this type of situation, even if it is counterintuitive, is to open all the windows of the vehicle, because in order to open the door, there must even be pressure outside the vehicle and inside“, Explains Jean-Marc Sicard, fire chief and deputy for the forecast group in the Var department’s fire and rescue service (SDIS).
“Opening the windows is therefore a priority, as in cars with electric windows, once the battery is immersed, it is no longer possible to control them.“, The specialist continues.
In addition, as long as the vehicle is still in operation, suggests Patrick Chavada, lieutenant firefighter and member of the National Federation of Firefighters of France (FNSPF), “activate the hazard warning flasher to be more easily detected by the emergency services.“
These two tips are also shared by David Perre, water firefighter, during a scenario filmed for an episode of the show “Le monde de Jamy”, which went online in November 2021.
As the show explained, it is impossible to open the door when the window is closed because “the pressure the water exerts on [la porte] is greater than the air inside the car“Lowering the windows and closing the water in allows, on the contrary, the opportunity to rebalance the pressure and thus the opening of the door.
The headrest bar, a tool that can actually be used
However, as the viral publications recommend, it is very possible to use one of the head restraints to free yourself from the vehicle. “You can actually remove a headrest to break a window by using its spikes on one of the windows, but you need to aim at the angles“, Explains Patrick Chavada.
In “Jamy’s world”, David Perre also advises inserting one of the headrest bars “relatively strong“in”a corner of the window“to break it. A technique also recognized by Jean-Marc Sicard who qualifies:”This is useful advice provided you know how to remove the headrest and aim at the angles of the glass in question.“
“It is necessary to target the window opposite the current: if it comes from the driver’s side, it is necessary, for example, to target the window on the passenger side“, Continues the fire chief, who especially recommends buying”a miniature window breaker for 10 euros or less, which also allows you to cut a blocked belt and which you can hang on your keychain or store in an accessible part of the cabin.“
No privileged side to get out of the car
Should the rear of the vehicle be preferred to get out of it because “the rear window will always face the exit“, as the viral text claims?
As Antoine Verrier, head of the automotive sector at the Higher School of Aeronautical Techniques and Automotive Construction (Estaca), explains to AFP, two “favorable factors“agrees with this statement:”In the vast majority of cases, the powertrain (GMP), which includes the engine and transmission, is located at the front, so that’s where the vehicle mass is. If the cabin of the car was completely sealed, there would be problems with pressure and pressure relief as in aircraft: This is why there is a possible leak from the rear end or the boot. The rear end of the vehicle therefore tends to be at a height as long as the cabin is not completely full.“
However, the specialist points out that “you can not generalize“especially”if the trunk is very full, for example if it is full after shopping or the evening before departure on holiday.“Also, some cars are built differently, like the electric models.”If the electric motor is also located at the front, it is lighter than the internal combustion engine, and the electric battery is better distributed throughout the vehicle, especially at the rear.“, The specialist continues.
A nuance shared by Jean-Marc Sicard: “It’s hard to say which side of the car is best to leave: it depends on how it was carried, on its model … When the engine is in front, the rear end will theoretically be slower under water, but some models have their engine at the rear.“
Finally, once you find yourself able to get out of the car and “as long as it is quiet“, the fire chief advises”pull up on its roof to be more easily rescued by the emergency services“.
“Never drive on a flooded road”
Therefore, if these gestures are to be preferred in this type of situation, it is best to avoid, as much as possible, being exposed to such a danger, Jean-Marc Sicard regrets that “at this point, firefighters often find dead people because they were unable to get out of the vehicle.“
For Patrick Chavada, “the basic advice before you get there is to never go on a flooded road.“
“People tend to do it because they think they can get through anyway and that’s how they get ripped off. One must always turn around“, States the fire lieutenant.
On their website, firefighters in France advise drivers to avoid ending up in a flooded car “during the episode of heavy rain“, of”find a place in the height past the existing roads to avoid endangering yourself“or off”get out of the vehicle to go to a permanent building“.
Floods expected to increase due to global warming
Floods have hit several regions of the globe in recent months. In late May 2022, the 100 death line was crossed in Brazil after heavy rains in the northeastern part of the country caused floods and landslides.
A month earlier, Guadeloupe was mourning the death of one person after record-breaking rainfall, while South Africa suffered the worst floods in its history, causing 443 deaths, about 60 missing people and enormous destruction.
In the summer of 2021, the hottest ever recorded in Europe’s history, Germany and Belgium were ravaged by floods that killed more than 200 people and billions of euros in damage. An episode whose probability has been increased by 20% to 900% due to global warming, according to researchers from the World Weather Attribution.
The US Oceanic and Atmospheric Observation Agency (NOAA) also recently recalled the dramatic consequences of this phenomenon, including the multiplication of heat waves, droughts, fires and floods.