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How to Escape From a Sinking Car

When viewers heard Karla Gutierrez's 911 call on Tuesday's show, we received hundreds of phone calls asking how to handle an emergency escape from a car submerged in water. Karla was hoping for outside help when she called 911 to save her. In today's HealthWatch, we will outline the steps you need to take to handle such an emergency. Captain Ed Brown of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue is here to offer us some how-to-get-to-safety tips in case our car is submerged in water.

Don't Panic

The key to getting out of a submerged car is to stay calm. You need to remain levelheaded so you will be able to think.

Unfasten the Seat Belt

Roll Down Your Window to Escape

Open the window and get out of the car as soon as you can--if possible, before it starts to sink. If the car is sinking, get out as soon as the resistance to the incoming rush of water lessens. If for some reason you cannot get the window down, wait till the car fills completely before you can open the door. The water pressure will then have equalized, which will allow the door to open. Before exiting, try to find a pocket of air at the top of the car and take a breath.

Get Out and Swim to Safety

If you forget the above, remember the acronym POGO.

P--Pop the seat belt.
O--Open the window.
GO--Get out.

Never sit in the car and just wait. If you follow these steps, you should be able to escape the car before it starts to sink. It takes a car 2-3 minutes to sink, depending on the car.

Consider buying glass-breaking tools. You can carry a small hammer or center punch, which you can use to shatter glass. A center punch looks like an ink pen and can be found in any hardware store. The idea is to try to exert force on the glass at one small point location. We recommend at the bottom or a corner edge of a window. If you break the center of the glass, you could cut yourself. Never try to break the windshield or the car's back window: They will never break. Always try to break a side window. Anyone can break the window with the punch. The automatic center punch does not require a lot of strength. A child can use it successfully. You can also us a Philips head screwdriver.

As long as the keys are in the ignition of a car, the electric windows should work. Even when a car sinks to the bottom of a body of water, the electrical system will still work for awhile.

Do all cars sink? Yes, all cars sink, but they sink at different rates. A Volkswagen Beetle once floated for almost 15 minutes.

If you are in the car with children, first free yourself from your seat belt, then open a window, then free the kids' seat belts and push them out the window first.

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