With yesterday’s tragic collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis, once again people are asking what they could do to escape their car if they suddenly found themselves underwater.
First, you must stay calm. Second, you cannot open the door, you must escape through the windows. If the windows are already open, you are more or less home free, assuming you were able to get a full breathhold before the water fills up the car.
All windshields are laminated glass which you cannot escape through. Side windows are almost always tempered safety glass that will shatter and crumble into small bits if struck with a sharp object or with a blunt object and enough force.
Once the window is broken, the water will rush in and you will have to wait until the car is pretty much full to get out, you can’t fight against the incoming rush of water. So stay calm, hold your breath once the water gets high enough, then release your safety belt and swim out through the window.
It’s best to stay buckled in until you are ready to leave. Be prepared to cut the belt if the release is jammed.
As with so many other survival situations, having the right tool makes surviving much easier. There are two readily available tools specifically designed to help you escape a car, underwater or not, that will do the job, the Life Hammer and the Res-Q-Me.
My pick is the Res-Q-Me since it is so compact and easy to use. It’s what I carry. It’s small enough to fit on your key chain. This makes it readily available if needed, but you can also hang it from the seat belt or var visor and any other secure location in the car. It has to be secure and within easy reach. You don’t want it to get lost in an accident because it wasn’t securely held in place.
The Res-Q-Me has the two essential tools you need. Pull it loose from the clip that is used to attach it to your key rig or a split ring or chain and a safety cutter is revealed. This is a miniature version of the seat belt cutters used by safety and rescue personnel.Just slide the belt into the slot and the razor blade easily cuts it.
At the other end is an automatic punch. Just press it hard against the window and the spring will automatically drive the pointed punch into the glass, shattering it. It’s that easy.
If you’re traveling in your car and going to be next to water (along a shore or on a ferry) or over water (bridge), you owe it to yourself and your passengers to carry a tool that will help you to escape.