What If You Had 30 Seconds to Save Your Life?

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The key says Giesbrecht is to understand what you have to do, long before one of these terrifying accidents ever happens.

"When we're scared is not the time to be figuring things out," he says, "That's why we're trying to get this message into the psyche of the public."

Clearly this escape procedure won't work in all cases. Just this month six Ohio teens died after the car they were riding in flipped off the road and landed upside down in a pond. Two teens did escape, but only because they were able to get out a window that had busted open. Giesbrecht's procedures are designed for cars floating upright.

Many people mistakenly believe that they should let their vehicle sink and fill with water to equalize the pressure, so they can then open the doors and escape.

"The problem is people don't realize that in many of these vehicles the truck, even though it is a separate compartment, it is still part of the passenger compartment, and you need to wait for all of the air to clear out of the trunk before it equalizes," he said. By then it may be too late.

"There's this fallacy that you have this magic air bubble," said Fahringer. "And if you wait for this magic air bubble you can get a breath and open the doors [but] by then it's too late."

In all of the testing that's been done, the vehicles have been equipped with windows that roll down, so the car can be repeatedly dunked. Most cars on the road these days have electric power windows and there is no requirement that the windows continue to operate in water. Auto manufactures say the windows should work briefly when you hit the water, but there's no guarantee.

So Giesbrecht has a back-up plan. He carries a simple window-breaking device in his vehicle. The tool, a spring-loaded center punch, is pressed into a corner of the window. One or two simple pushes and the window shatters. This reporter tried it with the $10 "resqme" brand and the window was in pieces in just seconds. Giesbrecht recommends the devices be easily accessible and in the open, perhaps hanging from the rear view mirror.

All this testing is leading to a major safety change. Beginning next month, 9-1-1 operators will start learning a new protocol to follow when they receive frantic calls from those trapped in sinking vehicles. "It shifts the focus from finding out where the vehicle is and telling people to be calm," Giesbrecht said, "to saying, okay do what I tell you."

Operators will be instructed to send a clear message. get that seatbelt off, get that window down. Get out. Giesbrecht is convinced, "It absolutely will save lives."

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