Current Best Practices

Knowing what to do in an emergency situation can make all the difference

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Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht

and Operation ALIVE

Because vehicle submersion carries such a high fatality rate, Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, professor of thermophysiology at the University of Manitoba founded Operation ALIVE in 2006 (Automobile submersion: Lessons in Vehicle Escape).

He has performed over 150 vehicle submersions, most with people inside, studying the characteristics of sinking vehicles in order to determine the safest exit strategies and prevent vehicle drowning.  He has published nine papers on the topic and rewritten emergency response protocols for emergency response operators for vehicles sinking in water and stranded in flood water.

These protocols are used in 60% of the English-speaking world and have been translated into many other languages. 

The current and best survival advice is to perform your own rescue instead of waiting for help to arrive:

  • Don’t panic 
  • Don’t reach for your cell phone
  • Remember 4 actions (SWOC):

Seatbelts Off

Windows Open or Broken

Out immediately

Children first, oldest to youngest

Center Punches

A great tool to keep in your car is a spring-loaded center punch to break the side windows, such as resqme.

Picture of the resqme spring-loaded center punch for breaking car windows

But the Majority of People Don’t Own One

To be effective, it must be visible and reachable when needed. It should be kept in plain sight, such as hanging from the rear-view mirror, and preferably of a bright color.  

Know your tools:

Spring-loaded center punches cannot break laminated and polycarbonate windows, or other types of unbreakable glass.  Shatter resistant glass types offer protection from high velocity road debris, a key reason why they are increasingly used in vehicles, but they present a significant risk to passengers in specific situations such as vehicle submersion. 

Vehicle submersion is a highly stressful situation and human error remains a key contributor to the high fatality rate. 

That is why, in addition to knowing what to do and arming yourself with manual tools such as resqme, the need for an automatic solution that removes human error and lowers the windows is essential.