Drive Home Alive: Surviving Disasters in the Car

Part 4: Former Navy SEAL turned survival expert explains how to stay calm and alive while in peril.
7:26 | 08/23/13

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Transcript for Drive Home Alive: Surviving Disasters in the Car
they are the things you see on the news that you think could never happen to you. Trapped in a raging electrical storm. Sinking under water, even buried in an earthquake. But that's what they thought, too, until it happened to them. So, we sent gio benitez to play test subject to show you how to survive. Reporter: For today's motorist, there are threats around every corner. From "earth." Oh my god. Reporter: "Wind." We're caught in the middle of a tornado right now. Reporter: And "fire." Disaster strikes suddenly, and first responders won't appear in an instant, so survival depends on you. If you think and act like a navy s.E.A.L., You can survive anything. Reporter: Cade courtley is a former navy s.E.A.L. Who wrote the "s.E.A.L. Survival guide." Secrets to surviving any disaster. When disaster strikes in the car, do you abandon ship or do you stay put? It depends on the situation. Reporter: So we brought cade to the l.A. City fire department's preparedness training facility -- dubbed "disaster city" to put me to the test and teach you how to survive. The worst decision you can ever make is not making a decision. You think of three options, do a quick pro and con, and then just pick one and go with it. The car is sinking. It's up to my legs. I can't get out of the car. Reporter: Disaster number one -- submerged. Your car plunges into the water. More than 200 people drown this way every year. I hit the water pretty hard. I thought I was going to die. Reporter: Last month, 22-year-old morgan lake hopped into her sporty red sebring and headed for maryland's chesapeake bay bridge. I was going to go salsa dancing with my best friend. Just have fun. Reporter: A routine drive becomes a near death experience in seconds. A harrowing disaster that grabbed the nation's attention. This is a miracle, this survival story. I look into my rear view mirror and see a huge 18-wheeler coming full speed and it hit me pretty hard. Everything around me just shattered. Reporter: Morgan's car is teetering on the guard rail. Then plunges 27 feet into the choppy bay below. With time ticking away, instead of dialing 911, morgan fights for her life and gets out fast. I unbuckled my seatbelt, visualized my car, went at a angle to come out of my driver's side window. Reporter: That's morgan climbing the rocky base of the bridge. Clawing herself to safety. Hang on! We called 911. Hang on! My name is morgan lake. Morgan, hang on, help is coming, okay? Reporter: A quick exit is key. So keep a window hammer in your car for this. You've given yourself a emergency escape route. You're out of there. Reporter: Disaster number two? A downed power line on top of a car. A potential hazard in any storm. Downed power lines, a very dangerous situation. That is charged, still. Reporter: If you are not in immediate danger, resist the urge to flee. Stay put. You've got four tires, rubber. That is acting as insulation. That's keeping you in -- within this car from getting electrocuted. Reporter: Wait for help. Shockingly, having another car push you out of the way may be safe. But don't let anybody approach on foot. It could kill them. Don't touch the car! Worst case scenario now. The car is on fire. So you are forced to leave your car. Most floor mats are made of rubber. That's going to help act as the insulator. Open your car door, grab that floor mat and put it our maybe about a foot and a half, two feet outside. Now, you want to rotate slowly, 90 degrees, keeping your -- oh, you just killed yourself -- Reporter: Oh. Right there. You just allowed an arc to come through one leg that was separated and killed yourself. So, if you keep your feet together, out on the mat and now without touching the exterior of the vehicle, use the seat, go ahead and push yourself up. All right. Keep the feet together. Now slowly hop with your feet together away from the car. Reporter: So, I'm going to hop away? Feet together. Right. That's your best bet for getting out of this area. Reporter: Disaster number three, avalanche. It may seem unlikely, but would you know what to do if this happens? Oh! An avalanche just hit that guy. Reporter: They don't get much snow in l.A., So, to simulate an avalanche, we blacked out our car. Sure to set the heart racing. Go ahead and turn on the overhead dome light. This is a calming effect. Reporter: It's for situations like this that cade recommending keeping a survival bag, equipped with things hike water, power bars and a flashlight in your backseat for easy access. Now, your instinct is probably telling you to get out. Don't. The pressure and the weight of all that snow is -- would be like trying to dig through concrete. Reporter: Snow is insulating and will keep the heat in. Temperature won't president a problem, but air could be. Preserving precious oxygen is crucial. So calm down. Catch your breath and breath slowly. Then kill the engine before it kills you. First thing you want to do is the conserve this pocket of oxygen. You're going to die from carbon monoxide a lot faster than you will from suffocation. And it's all about time. It's about people coming to get us. Reporter: So let them know you're there. Honk that horn. Reporter: Oh, that's not something people think about. Exactly. Reporter: Our final disaster, an earthquake. If you are driving, the biggest concern is heavy falling debris. So stay in your car. Now, there's one exception to this rule. If you're in a parking garage, the last place you want to be is inside that vehicle. Reporter: We dropped a six-ton, 12,000-pound parking structure slab on our cars. It completely smashes the top of the vehicles down to the steering wheel. No chance of survival if you are sitting inside. But outside of it? Hopefully, you'll end up with a void space like that. Reporter: Surprisingly, cade says get out and lay down next to the wheels of your car. And so here, it worked. But really, you have to trust the science and that can be scary. Take a look. That's it. It feels really strange to want to get out of the safety of your vehicle, but you can see what this does. You're crawling out, you're going to survive another day. Reporter: The navy s.E.A.L.'S final advice when confronted with life or death options? Create a trigger. It could be a family member. And then now you're in that survival situation and it's going to take 150% of everything you have to get out of that. So think about that trigger. Reporter: Remember morgan lake, who plunged 27 feet in her car and fought to save her life? Her survival trigger was her family. I did not want to drown. My inner superwoman strength came out. I wanted to see my family again. My name is morgan lake! Reporter: And they were back by her side just weeks later as she celebrated her 23rd birthday. And another year alive. Our thanks to gio for putting it all to the test tonight. What's the scariest situation you've ever found yourself in driving your car? How did you survive? Tell us on twitter, use #abc2020. Don't go away. We'll be right back.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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