After a ship collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore early Tuesday, several vehicles were plunged into the river, as previously reported by the Deseret News.

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Per NPR, an estimated 400 people die each year in water submersion crashes across America. While a bridge collapse is less likely, individuals can still get caught in water from flash floods or crashes.

In the event of an emergency, here’s what you need to know.

What to do if your car is sinking or submerged in water

Once a car is in water you have under a minute to get out. “Speed is the key to saving your life,” according to ABC News.

What happens to the car once it is in water?

Because of the weight and front positioning of the motor, cars usually submerge with their noses pointed downward in water, per Lifesaving Resources.

Depending on the fall, vehicles may also turn sideways or upside down, according to Arrive Alive.

Things to keep in mind:

If your car is in the water, escape immediately. If you don’t, certain switches or motors will no longer operate. Therefore passengers will need to break the windows. If you wait too long, it may not be possible to escape until pressure has equalized (water has fully entered the car).

But it’s usually too late by then, according to Lifesaving Resources.

Emergency procedures to escape a sinking car

Gordon Giesbrecht, a retired professor who studied vehicle submersion at the University of Manitoba, told NPR that to escape a sinking vehicle, remember the following:

S – Seat belts off.

W – Windows open.

O – Out immediately.

C – Children first.

Locate your door latches, window cranks or electric window switches. Keep a rescue/escape tool readily available to punch out windows and cut seatbelts. Place it in another conspicuous spot easily accessible during emergencies. Consider additional tools for passenger side and rear seat compartments, per Lifesaving Resources.

Giesbrecht says adults should help children out of the car first because it’s difficult to re-enter a sinking vehicle. Children should be taken out from oldest to youngest as older children can wait independently while other children are brought to safety, according to NPR.

How to prepare for submerged vehicle emergencies

One of the best things to do to prepare for an emergency is knowing what to do before an emergency occurs, per Get Prepared.

Practice the steps for a successful self-rescue from a sinking car

According to State of Nevada, basic preparedness includes:

  1. Be informed – Discover protective measures before, during and after emergencies. Identify community hazards and information sources for assistance. In the case of a vehicle submerging, learn what happens to a car in water and what to do before, during and after the emergency.
  2. Plan ahead – Make a plan of what to do in an emergency. Stay informed on what to do in case plans change. With a car sinking, this might include making a plan with your family on how to escape. Teach everyone S.W.O.C and make sure they can repeat what needs to be done.
  3. Build a kit – Buy or create an emergency supply kit. To prepare for a car submerging under water, this may include items to break the window or cut a seatbelt. Keep the tools in your vehicles and make sure you and your family know how to use them.

Get the proper tools to get out of a submerged vehicle

Lifesaving Resources suggests having a seatbelt cutter or blade and something to break windows to get out of sinking cars.

What tools can you use to cut a seatbelt?

According to Safety Restore, the tools you can use to cut a seatbelt include:

  • Seatbelt cutter – This is the most popular tool. It usually cuts off the seatbelt in one slice and is easy to clean. However, this tool may be harder to use for bigger seatbelts.
  • Box cutter – This cutter gives good stability due to the sturdy handle material. Though, it may be hard to get through a seatbelt because it is a broader and longer tool.
  • Scissors – It is easy to find scissors around the house. As long as the blades are sharp, you should be able to get through the seatbelt.
  • Knives – Stainless steel knives will be easier to carry around and clean, but they have a harder time getting through thick seatbelts. Carbon steel knives, however, will be more durable.
  • Blades – Blades are shorter than box cutters and longer than utility knifes. The length is great for cutting through thick material.
What tools can you use to break a window?

It is much easier to break a window with tempered glass in comparison to laminated glass, which may be impossible to break. More cars have multiple laminated windows to reduce occupant ejection during a collision. Know which windows in your car are tempered so you can break them, per AAA.

Window breakers are either spring loaded or hammer-type. Different sources offer conflicting guidance on which is better.

According to Lifesaving Resources, hammer-type devices are more dependable for tempered glass because they are more durable and prevent the chance of cuts on the hand. Spring loaded tools works, you just might need to replace it as needed.

AAA found spring loaded was more effective than hammer-type after multiple rounds of testing. Once a car is completely submerged, they said a hammer-type is ineffective.

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Prepare now for life's emergencies