Just three months into 2020, and the UK has experienced some truly devastating floods.
Last month, as rivers reached record levels across the UK, Storm Dennis flooded over 1,650 homes. Many areas of England and South Wales remain flooded today, with 39 flood warnings still in place as we enter the second week of March. But while the Environment Agency are doing their best to predict and prevent the floods, surface water flooding from heavy rain or poor drainage can be unpredictable.
So what should you do if you encounter flood water?
First things first: don’t act the superhero. Too many people think they have the skill to drive though floodwater, or feel protected by their modern car full of the latest gadgets. But here’s a reality check: you’re not a superhero. Fast-moving floodwater can easily wash a car downstream in a matter of seconds. Even modern cars are vulnerable to water: both their electrical system and engine are incredibly susceptible to water damage. Sometimes, it’s just as heroic to admit defeat, turn around, and find a different route. You may be late, and the new route may add a couple of hours onto your journey. But at least its preferable to being stranded on the roof of your car, or even in more tragic circumstances, becoming a flood-related fatality.
As a rule, don’t drive into moving flood water and avoid water over 10cm (4 inches) deep. If you absolutely must drive through flood water, drive slow and steady so not to make a bow wave. Also, let approaching cars pass first. Once you have passed through, test your brakes as soon as possible. If your brakes are faulty, pull over immediately.
So what should you do if you stuck in flood water?
First, stay calm. Panicking will help nobody: you need to keep your wits about you. Turn on your headlights and hazard lights so the emergency services can see you more easily. Next, unbuckle your seat belt, unlock your doors and take any jackets and outer clothing off. This will make you more supple when manoeuvring out of the car.
If you can, lower your window slowly and climb out your car. Your electric windows should still function unless your vehicle is completely submerged. Do NOT try to break windows! If the water pressure has not equalised, the glass will break inwards and could cause serious injury. Once out of your car, get to high ground and call for help.
If your windows will not open, use the door to escape. The door will only open once the water pressure is equalised from outside and inside of the car. Unfortunately, this means you need to wait until water enters the car and raises to about your neck level. It will be a scary experience, but is the only way to open your door. Once it opens, swim to safety and call for help.